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.
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.
FG owner, Katie explains all about her unique Cakes & Shakes event and the benefits of protein high snacks…
Did you know you can bake amazing cakes with protein powder?
Its hard to believe how versatile whole food protein in powder form can be; along with your coconut oil or cocoa nibs, they’ve swiftly become staples of the new-clean eating kitchen cupboard in many families!
The protein powder we choose here at FGB is a vegan, super food made from yellow split pea, cranberry and brown rice protein. It’s clean, it’s pure, it’s gluten free, dairy free, whey free and nut free and there are no artificial sweeteners, colourings and preservatives in there either. We have our fridge stocked with our ready mixed “to go” version – for your ease straight after a class, and there’s also individual 20 grams servings sachets to blend yourself at home.
Whats more, it’s packed with 20 essential vitamins and minerals, it has a full amino acid count – which is rare to find in any plant based or vegan food, making it a delicious nutritious power-packed meal. When made as a smoothie or a cake snack it will carry you through breaks and dips in energy when you need a neat homemade superfood treat.
Why do we need protein?
In all meals you should aim to balance 20 grams of protein; whether your a vegan, pescetarian or meat eater, along with leafy greens, some of your five a day fruit and vegetables and little whole food carbohydrate – preferably slow releasing (i.e. brown rice rather than white, sweet potato rather than white potato etc). In fact, you’ll need this combination even more so after a yoga class or workout, as it’s been proven that 20 grams of easily digestible protein within 1 hour of exercise restores muscle repair and growth, prevents tears and can even illuminate those pesky achy muscles!
What is this power-packed Recipe?
All you need is a couple of eggs, almond or rice milk and some protein powder, plus a sprinkle of your favourite extra, I use cranberries. What I’s like to add is that mostly people use their protein powder for shakes or smoothies, which is a great way to combine with your super greens, berries, flax and nuts (not your husband’s!) to make a great meal after yoga, but sometimes you want something you can bite into, and this is where the protein powder is genius for baking.
Using a large fork mix all of the following ingredients in a medium bowl:
Spray muffin tin with cooking oil spray and pour batter, filling each tin about 3/4 full. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes until golden on top. Yum!
On Saturday 10th & Sunday 11th, we join Katie, FG owner and resident protein lover in the studio, sharing recipes, cakes and free samples for you to try and buy all at 20% off this weekend ONLY.
A clean eating role model for us all, Katie has spent over half her life living gluten and dairy free, discovering many great and varied ways to eat well and this in turn saved her from the diagnosis of a crippling disease, Endometriosis. She is happy to answer questions on a wide range of health spectrum and also including ways to Live Life with Fierce Grace.
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.
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!
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.
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.
When you first visited Fierce Grace Brixton, you were probably told about the inter-related system of classes. But what exactly does that mean? This week’s blog explains the cutting-edge, unique system, which was “25 years in the making” and designed specifically for YOU. AND for the person next to you.
Having brought Bikram Yoga to the UK in 1994, Fierce Grace founder, Michele Pernetta, has long steered the revolutionary course of hot yoga. Over the course of two decades Michele has taught over a quarter of a million bodies, of all different shapes, sizes, ages and abilities. Fierce Grace is the culmination of these years of learning and practising, experimenting and innovating.
Through yoga, we cultivate a greater self-belief and self-awareness, experiencing mental and emotional benefits. However, it starts with moving the body. In its simplest form, yoga is a scientific method to maintain, explore and enhance the body’s natural range of movement. This is, in itself, vast… equally as vast as the many facets of our personalities and individuality. Michele began to see that this was not all catered for or drawn out by the existing yoga market or a fixed one-class system. Individuality is not a one-size-fits-all.
Michele therefore devised a menu of classes, each built on the same principles but reflecting the varying ways which we can move our bodies. This also accommodates the changes in our minds and emotions from one day to the next. We have the capacity and need to be inward and softer one day and outward and fiery the next. The Fierce Grace system supports this 360 degree approach. Working with over 150 postures, the six classes all share the same skeletal system, using the same core postures and the same attention to building a strong and solid foundation within the body. However, they vary in their energy levels and “different moods” and movements, so that you every day you are changing it up in order to get deeper into the bones, the muscles, the joints and ligaments, getting at them from all angles, nurturing their every need and unlocking their potential. As well as exploring different aspects of your own personality: the quieter sides against the out-there sides, the yin and the yang, masculine and feminine, the fierce and the grace.
Fierce Grace yoga is the yoga-system for everyone: from the ‘stiff, old and broken’ (may we present to you the S.O.B. class! – With our senior teacher Krzysztof breaking the postures down, focussing on alignment and providing any modifications where necessary), your average Joe off the street, to the super fit and the athletes. A lot of media imagery surrounding yoga focuses on the pretzel-bending ‘wrap your leg around your head’ elite – (Michele: “I have always found the images used to promote yoga in the press very offensive! The tall, blonde, skinny girl in Lotus position in white organic cotton is so off-putting; and I am a tall, blonde, skinny girl! So I can’t imagine how put-off a big bloke with a beer belly must feel.”) Not at Fierce Grace. Here it’s OK to fall over (or would we say actively encouraged?) and to “laugh trying”; we tell students to let go of their pride and “stretch don’t pose”.
At Brixton, we work hard to create an ego-free, down-to-earth, “all-in-it-together” attitude. We say “work hard”, and work hard we do, but in many ways it seems second nature as we all share the same vision of normalising yoga, spreading its joys and encouraging every single person who walks in through our door! One of our many valued members said to us recently “When I walk into this studio, I immediately feel love. To me, I’m not just coming here to ‘do yoga’, I’m coming here to do yoga with my friends. It’s like a family.” That is what a Fierce Grace studio is: somewhere where you can be yourself, explore yourself and learn to appreciate yourself, whether you can touch your toes or not. (But honestly, laugh trying).
Our advice to you this week FGB-ers is to take FULL advantage of the system put in place for you. Embrace the diversity. Mix it up. Use it to explore the different parts of your body and your self. Get to know yourself. If you are a Fierce Grace fanatic how about dipping into a Deep Core? Or converting to a Classic? You’ll be surprised what happens when you let loose and throw yourself (please not literally) into different parts (outside) of your comfort zone. Quite soon, you won’t only be Living Life with Fierce Grace, you’ll be living Fierce Grace. x