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.
This Valentine’s Day, forget the chocolate, flowers and squeezing into overcrowded restaurants!
Why not celebrate Valentine’s Day with a little bit of yogic love? Physically stretching the muscles in your chest, shoulders and belly can create a deep emotional release, helping you to appreciate and honour yourself and your loved ones.
Can Yoga help you fall in love?
Let’s look at the science: from a physiological point of view, yoga helps high cholesterol, blood sugar levels and supports the circulatory and respiratory systems. On the emotional side, Yoga promotes a healthy, open heart, can live stress and anxiety. The heart chakra is related to our ability to give and receive love.
Our FG classes are full of gorgeous heart and chest openers like backbends, Cobra, Camel pose, Wild Thing, Locust, Wheel and Bow pose. Chest openers are a great way to open up the muscles of the chest to reverse forward-leaning posture and are said to bring more joy and love into your life. Understanding the benefits of these poses will give you motivation to include them as a regular part of your practice.
Chest openers can combat the blues and improve your mood. When you open the heart by lifting the chest, your outlook improves. The typical posture of someone who is in a poor mood or depressed features hunched shoulders and a hanging head. If you roll your shoulders up and expand your chest, you automatically look more confident, open and radiant!
Start by loving yourself and opening your heart to all possibilities.
“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”
It can be hard to see your friends in the big city. So what could be better than bringing your friends to FGB? Just imagine hanging out post class over a cup of green tea in the foyer or un-rolling your mats side by side in the studio…
We thought it would be great if you were rewarded for bringing your friends, so we offer a very special perk, called 1-2-3 FREE* to members who bring along 3 friends who are new to Fierce Grace Brixton and who sign up for an Introduction Offer. As a thank you from us, you’ll get 1 MONTH FREE yoga!
We chat to Valentine Ohagwa about bringing along her 3 friends, getting a free month and why she came to FGB in the first place:
“11 years ago I was reasonably fit, until I suffered a road traffic accident where I was hit by an uninsured drunk driver.The long and short of it is: 10 years and 4 operations later, I still have a damaged right leg which causes back, hip and knee problems. No only that, I can no longer wear heels or run!
Finally, I found yoga. Yoga is the only form of exercise I have done which I feel is fully helping me heal. Realistically, I can only do 70% of the class, but I have to remind myself that it’s better that nothing!I have been coming to Fierce Grace Brixton for about 1 year now and have told all of my friends about it. Over this year, they’ve seen my mood lighten, change and I’ve become more of a positive positive. I encouraged them to come along and they loved it! I’m so happy that the 1-2-3 Free offer helped me practice 1 month for free. If I was 100% able, I would be a teacher!”
So there you are folks: bring your friends and get free yoga. Simple.
Friends with benefits, really!!
*Friends must be new to the Fierce Grace Brixton studio and sign up for a package with us.
First classes can be overwhelming and great at the same time. Even if you’re coming back to FG after a seasonal break, it’s useful reconnect with your intentions. We chat to FGB teacher, Omae about her Top Tips for hot yoga practice… one of the biggest she says: ‘be kind to yourself’. Spot on, Omae. Thank you!
What brought you to teach Fierce Grace yoga?
I’d been working at the studio and practicing Bikram for about 6 years but as soon as I tried Fierce Grace I knew I was ready for a change. So when Michele announced the very first FG teacher training it was too good an opportunity to miss! It was four intense weeks but the real life changing experience starts when you get up and teach your very first class. I was terrified! I still get nervous but I don’t allow my nerves to get the better of me 🙂
Any advice for newcomers?
First time in the hot room can feel amazing but it can also be overwhelming! It’s different for everyone so come with an open mind. Get used to the heat by taking it very easy and pacing yourself…. get used to breathing through the nose. Rest as much as you need. Expect to feel exhausted as you are working twice as hard as anyone else but it does get easier.
What about advice if you’ve been practicing a while?
Those that have been coming a while can face their own set of challenges. Learning how to be kind to yourself can be one of the biggest. Don’t feel you have to push push all the time! Sometimes it’s about holding back and really listening to your body, accepting yourself just the way you are. There’s potential for transformation but it can be a long, hard journey. Connecting with breath is the surest way to advance your practice.
How do you encourage people out of their comfort zones?
Try out the different classes and teachers. If you always have the same spot in the room change it up a bit! Sometimes it’s small changes that make the difference. Noticing your habitual patterns is the first step, we all have them! Practice giving your full attention to any task you do, including your practice.
And tell us about evolving your own practice
This has been a real journey for me and very humbling. I love this yoga so much and it’s become such a big part of my life! However the last few months I’ve had to really learn how to hold back as an old back injury has resurfaced and it’s really affected my practice….I can’t do half the stuff I used to do, and as a teacher, that’s hard! But I see lessons everywhere and I know that there’s a huge one here for me. It’s actually given me a valuable opportunity to understand just how important breath and awareness are. I’m gradually getting stronger again and I’m strangely grateful for this experience.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
I’m having a wonderful time teaching at FG Brixton, it’s a beautiful, well run studio with amazing staff and students, I love it here! We are all one community and this incredible practice gives us the chance to not only connect with ourselves, but also each other.
Here’s to a year of positive change, more love, more understanding, more Peace!
Wise words, Omae! Want to know more? Come to her classes on Wednesday 10am and 12.30pm at FGB.
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
Whether you are new to yoga, or hot yoga, or Fierce Grace; or you are someone who has been practicing for a few years, one of the truths of yoga is that your practice is different every time you get on the mat. Class after class your practice changes and evolves. Mood, energy levels, stress levels, different teachers, there are lots of factors that contribute to your practice being a living, breathing, every-changing thing. But how to evolve more consciously? And how can we help?
Well, start by looking at the foundations of your practice. Is it solid? By this we mean paying attention to the building blocks of the poses. Set yourself up properly; even if you think you know how a pose should look and feel, or you have been practicing for a while, listen to the teacher and their instructions for getting into position. You may hear something different. Use your breath, use your focus and work to your limits, whatever they are that day.
Try some of the new classes on the Fierce Grace schedule. They have been created to help you work in specific areas, taking some poses further and breaking down others into different steps. Fly for upper body strength, Deep Dark Core to add a more meditative dimension, FG2 to take some poses into different expressions to keep you challenged, interested and evolving.
Go back to some of the old classes in the schedule. We all have our favourites, and the classes we aren’t so keen on. Sometimes we aren’t keen on them because they challenge us in ways that make us physically or mentally uncomfortable. Work through it, man!!! That’s what Fierce Grace means!
When you first get back on the mat in 2017, or you step on the mat for the first time, think about your practice. How has it changed? What do you want from it? Fitness, health, flexibility, free heating? Whatever it is you want to get out of Fierce Grace, bring your fierce, bring your grace and remember to bring a towel, appropriate clothing, no aerosols, plenty of water and practice evolution.
Yeehaw!!! New Classes for the New Year at Fierce Grace Brixton
We don’t know about you but we are looking forward to starting a new year. Don’t get us wrong, life at the studio has been fierce but 2016 has been a big old year for saying goodbye to some of the most creative talents who have touched many of our lives in varying degrees. And we have also seen seismic changes on the political landscape. So what will 2017 bring?
Two new classes, that’s what. That’s right, we are going to be introducing FG2 and Fly to the schedule over the coming months. We have already talked about FG2, designed to help you meet The Beast with grace, for all levels. It’s 90 minutes of getting out of your comfort zone, with expressions of each pose to challenge and surprise. If you came to our Christmas launch class with Michele Pernetta then you know all about this!
But brand new is FLY, a 60 minutes class designed to unlock the secrets to arm balancing. Look forward to building upper body strength, balance and focus, and learn the alignment protocols of inversions and arm balancing. As well as poses you have already experienced in other classes – Crow, Crane, Side Crow, Flying Pigeon, and Dolphin, – you will advance your practice with other fun balancing poses. Become super strong and light as air. Supafly.
See you on the mat, fly girls and boys.
Here’s what our studio team are looking forward to:
Katie Gerald owner, director and member
Three years ago we were laying out our plans to develop he studio and build a Fierce Grace yoga community in Brixton. Two years ago we opened. And here we are with a strong and vibrant community with wonderful staff and teachers who support our members in their commitment to maintain and develop their own physical and mental well-being.
I still continue to be wowed by it all. How supportive our members are of each other and also of staff and teachers. Some sort of magic takes place in the studio whereby members – new and experienced, young and old, fit and not so fit, healthy and not so healthy – take up the challenges, seize the opportunities and enjoy the benefits and variety of the six class integrated system of integrated yoga which is Fierce Grace.
So what am I looking forward to in 2017? Well without doubt, its going to be exciting and challenging. We’ve got a great new studio manager Serena whom I’m looking forward to seeing implement her plans to take the studio forward – to strengthen and broaden and deepen the community, focusing especially on overall service and also expanding daytime membership: there are plenty of classes, so there really is no excuse not to come practice during the day! So all you mums and dads and folk who live or work at home or nearby, come down to FGB and join me to get your day-time lift!
I’m looking forward to seeing our experienced teachers continue to develop their skills, especially for injuries, to help manage and help resolve them, reducing or eliminating pain; newer teachers honing their skills; and introducing and supporting brand new teachers – watch out for Saturday 5.30pm FG classes! All supported by ongoing training from Michele Pernetta and Emma Croft.
And some great new classes. FG2 will be starting on Friday evenings at 7pm taught by all-round star Shirley – this introduces a few little optional twists to FG to get you experimenting. Fly will be coming shortly, offering a 60 minute class working on upper body strength, complimenting Fix for when you need to get in and out quickly. And possibly a pregnancy class and more for children. And DDC – Deep Dark Core on Wednesdays at 8.45pm to take you into deep relaxation and mediation whilst practising Deep Core, completing the day, preparation for sleep – taught by Paula. All part of Fierce Grace being a living, breathing, ever-developing system of yoga.
We will also be having some great new workshops. Michele Pernetta will be comeing to lead some, and we also plan to have some tightly focused on specific areas such as breathing – get your pranayama breathing finally nailed! If possible, we’ll do another Touch Your Toes in Windrush Square.
And welcoming back the newly married Lisa Hong and also a new addition to the world when Victoria, the life force that she is, gives birth to her first child in February 2017. We wish them, and you, and Michele, well and all the best for 2017. Enjoy.
And more form our studio team on what they’re looking forward to in 2017…
I am looking forward to another fantastic year of self growth, kindness and of course being Mrs Willoughby!
‘Become who you are’
Settling into our new place: having spent some months travelling with my husband and after recently relocating to London (and living with a very generous friend for a while), we are looking forward to moving into our own place and make it our own. On a more yogic note, I look forward to overcoming once and for all a small and nagging wrist injury I’ve been nursing for some months: It has taken longer than I would have liked but I’ve learnt a lot from it (namely, how to work my planks in a healthier way by using my fingers and shoulder strength more) but I sure look forward to it being over!
In 2017 I am looking forward to always making the most of myself! This also means taking the absolute best care of myself, I intend to still be practicing the Beast when I’m 100+!
I’m looking forward to a fresh start, new happy beginnings, hanging with a loving, positive tribe, and welcoming in all the new good energy and blessings!
I’m looking forward to finding more time to relax and seeing what happens; how the year unfolds.
I look forward for meeting new/old people as each individual can inspire you and influence in some way, for new adventures, commitments (more hot yoga practice J) and learning opportunities. I am trying to see every obstacle and challenge as an opportunity to learn and growth, therefore, I look forward for those happy but also sad and difficult moments.
Lila C: I’m looking forward to keeping an open heart and mind, writing more and seeing where my next adventure lies…
I’m looking forward to the fresh wave of energy the start of a new year brings, travelling with friends and new adventures!
I can’t wait for the new FG2 class at FG studios (as a student more than as a teacher!). It’s the FG we know and love… and then some!I’m really looking forward to my partner and I exploring more of the gorgeous hidden mountain town of Telluride, which we discovered in the Colorado Rocky Mountains. It’s incredible any time of year, and we can’t wait to return again and again. I’m also hoping optimistically for 2017 to start undoing damage and uncertainty created in the world in general in an unsettling 2016. There’s always hope – things can and will get better.
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.
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!
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!