At FGB, we’re taking teachers’ injury knowledge up a level with many of our Brixton teachers recently taking part in a 6 day SOB training – even those who presently teach it.
Ex-professional dancer and Brixton teacher, Lisa Missah tells us about her experience over the 6 days.
What did the week entail?
Over the course of the week we covered detailed studies of major back issues, including problems with discs and the sacroiliac joint, as well as the psoas muscle, hamstrings and injuries to the knees.
What is an injury?
An injury can be a specific problem to a particular area of the body, back, knees, hip or shoulder. However some people who practice yoga have a general ache or pain that doesn’t necessarily have a diagnosis: this is very common with the back, in particular. Injuries can be caused in many ways, through sport, accident or general wear and tear; poor posture, long periods of sitting in the workplace and the use of our smartphones can all contribute.
What has the training brought to your teaching?
Not only are increasing numbers of people referred to yoga to assist in strengthening a weakened physical area, but also as a preventative method for further problems. Therefore, it is imperative that the teacher has a good solid understanding of possible injuries and the necessary modifications and props to apply within postures to achieve the best results.
What has the training brought to your own practice?
The training has given me a much deeper understanding of injury identification, necessary modification and how to approach students with care and a sense of empathy. I am interested in yoga from a therapeutic point of view and the SOB training has definitely enhanced this for me; especially in my own practice, as an ex dancer with 2 prolapsed discs!
An example of this understanding would be: identifying when to take the stretch a little further and when to back off. Using this knowledge enables the teacher to modify postures and give individual attention to members displaying different injuries, even in a busy class!
At FG Brixton, you’ll find SOB every Sunday 12.30pm: excellent for beginners, those with injury and we’ll help set you on your path to do the other classes with an understanding of your physical issues.
With extra sunshine earlier in the mornings, getting up has been that little bit easier, but what about when your body still wants more snooze time?
Take a moment before reaching for the coffee. An energising morning yoga practice can work as a natural stimulant to set you up for a productive day. We explore postures to awaken the body, mind, digestion and nervous system… and FYI, some of these postures can even be done from your bed! Namaste.
1. Child’s Pose. A ‘natural’ posture is a good place to start first thing. This feels great for the body, especially at the beginning of the day, since it’s calming and relaxing. Take time to breath into the back and lower spine and enjoy the wake up effect on your spine.
2. Cat-Cow. A great morning stretch which can help to open up your whole spine. Breathing deeply in this pose will massage your organs as you alternately compress and lengthen the intestines, bringing fresh blood to the cells, which are responsible for healthy gut function. Be sure to lead from the spine and only stretch your neck as far as feels comfortable.
3. Warrior One. Feel powerful, positive and ready to face the day with Warrior One. This posture combines leg strengthening and gentle back bending, bringing energy into the body. Tilt your eyes skyward for a deeper stretch. If you’re feeling especially energetic, move into Warrior Two by bringing the arms parallel to the floor and gazing over your front arm. Maybe even set an intention for the day whilst your feeling strong!
4. Bridge Pose. Back bends are all about unlocking the energy of the spine and nervous system. Lying in a semi supine position with your head below your heart calms the nervous system and open the front of the body. Use your hands under your hips for an extra deep stretch.
5. Cobra. Open. the chest and strengthen the core body with Cobra. This posture can help align the spine and invigorate the kidneys and nervous system. A great one to do from your bed – just throw off your pillows and get ready to start the day!
Fancy seeing the sun rise in a beautiful country while practicing yoga? Check out our FG retreats here.
“Ideal for those looking to escape hectic city life and find greater balance in mind and body.” – VOGUE
Fierce Grace Brixton member, Clare Duggan practiced right up until the day before she gave birth! How’s that for motivation in February?
We chatted to Clare about her favourite postures whilst pregnant and what kept her coming back to Fierce Grace throughout. Did you know that yoga and being healthier, both in mind and body can actually help some women through their pregnancy with minimal discomfort?
Here’s what Clare has to say:
I fell into Fierce Grace Yoga after having been a regular Bikram practitioner for many years at the City studio, which subsequently evolved into a Fierce Grace studio. Having always found the heated practice a good way to keep niggling injuries at bay and enable me to continue to run and partake in more high impact exercise, Fierce Grace in addition offered more class variation making for a more interesting practice with extra benefits.
I couldn’t have been more delighted when Fierce Grace opened in Brixton, as having had my first baby and being on maternity leave, I was unable to get to the Old Street studio easily or quickly so wasn’t anticipating being able to return to practice until I returned to work in the city.
As with my first pregnancy, I practised through the 2nd and 3rd trimesters of my recent pregnancy and am sure this has kept me healthy, sane and able to keep active right up to when my waters broke (on my bike funnily enough) on the 17th January 2017. I had done a Fix class with Lisa Hood that same morning so maybe that hurried the birth along. My daughter Hettie May was born in the wee hours of the 18th January.
The main classes I practised throughout my pregnancy were Fix and Deep Core but that was more to do with the times I could get to class than anything else. I enjoyed the sets as a sequence but some of the postures I found most beneficial over this period were pigeon (all shapes and forms), down dog and dragon pose. I think that was as they were targeting areas where I was experiencing more tightness than usual. I was lucky that the Brixton FG teachers were so supportive and helped with any necessary modifications to my practice and I still had the energy to enjoy and practice regularly.
Providing my 10 week post-baby medical check-up is positive, I’d like to return to Fierce Grace classes again at that point. The main challenge will be timing classes around my daughter’s feed times. She has an insatiable appetite at the moment so we’re pretty much joined at the hip!
It’d be great to try some of the newer classes I haven’t yet had the opportunity to practise and develop my practice further. It may take a little while to stop doing the modifications I’ve been taught whilst pregnant so am sure there’ll be some corrections to be made over the coming months but I’m really looking forward to getting back to full fitness and enjoying a bit of me time, as well as catching up with all the lovely folk who work and practise at Brixton Fierce Grace studio.
At FGB, we love having such a variety of members at our studio at all stages of their lives.
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
Tales of Teacher Training – Meet Feng Cal, One of This Year’s Graduates
So many members express an interest in finding out more about the Fierce Grace Teacher Training. Whether you want to change career or just go even deeper, this intensive course is guaranteed to take you to a whole new level. So we thought we’d have a chat with Brixton member and one of this year’s graduates, Feng Cal.
What do you do?
My day (and sometimes night!) job is a finance lawyer in the city.
What do you love about your jobs?
I love the fast paced nature of my day job – building client relationships, working in a team and executing deals. It’s a busy and often stressful environment where you have to think on your feet and respond quickly. Teaching yoga actually uses a lot of same skills – building relationships with your students, encouraging teamwork and making sure that we all finish the class together without any dramas or mishaps!
Why did you take one month off to do teacher training?
It was a “now or never” opportunity! I happened to have a natural pause in my career development so used my 6 weeks of unpaid leave to do my TT. It really was a case of everything lining up perfectly.
Tell us about your own yoga practise
I have been practising yoga for over 4 years now and I have hugely benefitted from my practice, both physically and mentally. Physically, yoga has developed my strength and flexibility, helping to prevent injuries and protect my body from damage from other high impact sports such as running and rock climbing. Mentally, yoga helps me to relax and set aside time (and space) for myself, helping me to find balance in my daily routine. I was drawn to FG by the flexibility of the 6 class system, the friendly and knowledgeable teachers and the strong sense of community.
Why did you want to do it?
I wanted to do the FG TT so that I could teach at FG Brixton! For me, yoga has been this amazing journey which was bought so many benefits into my life. I want to share those benefits with the local community, regulars and newcomers, advanced practitioners and those who are just starting. I know how much of a difference it makes to have a supportive yoga teacher and doing the TT is hopefully just the first step in helping me to become the best teacher I can be.
What was it like?
It was a very demanding TT but also a very supportive TT. You are fully immersed for the month, trying to absorb as much as you can from the senior teachers and the excellent guest lecturers and benefitting from the support of your fellow students.
What did you get out of it?
I learned so much from my fellow students. We were a diverse group, from all walks of life and a wide range of ages yet we all supported each other. We recognised our own strengths and weakness and improved our teaching through feedback and supporting others.
Was it worth it?
Definitely! I know the TT is an expensive course but personally I loved being able to completely focus on the yoga and do it full time for a month. Plus, the second half was held in Italy, in the gorgeous retreat house with sun, pool and home-cooked Italian food – what’s not to love?
Would you recommend others to do it – if so, why?
Yes – if you want an in-depth hands-on training course that focuses on helping you learn how to teach more than anything else, the FG TT is one of the best out there.
Filling the shoes of Sophie Munson is no small feat, but our new studio manager Serena Sabala is looking forward to getting to know everyone over the coming weeks as she settles in. We thought you’d like to know a bit more about her…
Moving to London from Italy in 2005 for a career in fashion sales, she started Bikram yoga classes in 2008 and fell in love with it, becoming a teacher in 2012. After meeting her husband while travelling and teaching she lived in the US for a couple of years where she first managed a yoga studio and realised this was a role that combined both her corporate skills and her passion for yoga.
“I love being able to put my organisational and managerial skills to work in a yoga related environment. I love teaching yoga but as I teacher I felt like some of the skills I had developed during my many years of corporate work weren’t being put to use (and I did enjoy using them!); managing a studio allows me to do that within a context that resonates to me more than anything.
From my previous experience I have learnt that managing a studio requires a very wide and varied skill set. There are so many different aspects to the business (from customer service to staff management, budgeting, marketing and maintenance of the premises), most of which actually have very little to do with the yoga itself. I have to continuously remind myself that the ultimate goal still is to maintain a space where people can come in and change their life around, inside and out, for the better through the practice of yoga.”
We know how special Fierce Grace Brixton in so we asked her what she will be bringing to the party:
“Fierce Grace Brixton is already a well established and thriving community. The aim is for it to always be a place where the staff LOVE to come into work and members feel at home. The struggles we sometimes face in the day to day running of the business should never take away from a fun, laid back yet professional atmosphere we want to create and maintain for all those involved.
I try to never forget the higher purpose and to never lose a greater perspective: my life has changed and improved in ways I can’t even begin to explain thanks to the practice of yoga and to be able to now pass this gift onto others is worth all the hard work it takes.”
Sounds like Serena is pretty much the right woman for the job! We ended our chat with asking her to share something of her life philosophy with us. “In life, very much like in yoga, progress is not linear: some days feel like you’ve gone forward ten steps, others feel like you’re suddenly going back. I always try and remind myself that, as long as I’m doing my best, I can be assured that I’m moving forward. Maybe not at the pace that I’d like but there’s a lot to learn from what look like set backs or challenges.”
Putting Your Back Into It – Fierce Grace For a Healthy Back
It might be a cliché, but it is a busy, stressful time of year. Its easy to get caught up in the fun and the drama, but we can rush around and forget to take care of ourselves. Fierce Grace Brixton co-owner, Katie, did just that when she hurt her back doing a quick, sharp movement while not being fully aware of her body.
After being in agony for weeks, Katie says that she’s now learned a lot about herself. It might not come as a surprise that yoga has helped in her recovery. To assist her recovery she came to FG 5 days a week. The results…? She claims her back has been healed by FG!
“Heat and posture sequences, particularly Classic and Core have been life saving!”
We advise you see a medical professional to ensure you are doing what is best for you – not all back pains are the same! But if exercise is part of the prescription, here are Katie’s fierce tips for working with back pain.
Rub Tiger Balm on aching muscles before going into the hot room. The menthol works deep into the muscle for extra relief (don’t forget to wash your hands afterwards to avoid stinging eyes!) A great tip from FG teacher, Gwen.
Let the teacher know you’ve got an injury. Our teachers are trained to know the correct modifications for injury – let them guide you.
Be aware of what your body is telling you. Listen to your body completely. Use your breath, don’t push it and breathe into the full posture.
Avoid forward bends. Instead of floor bow, turn onto your back and slide up into bridge pose. Try to pull the stomach muscles in while stretching – this helps support the back and engages the core.
Be kind to yourself and REST. Katie used a heated lavender pillow under her back at night. This heat and extra support helped feel more comfortable and get a good nights sleep!
As an early preview of next month’s theme of GIVING, we are very pleased to introduce Fierce Grace Brixton member Affiong Uffort.She is currently midway through a 100 day hot yoga challenge to raise money for Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) so of course we wanted to find out more…
On Discovering Hot Yoga
I discovered Hot Yoga 12 years ago. After having my twin girls, I was overweight and going through some personal challenges. I saw someone practicing hot yoga on TV, and I immediately researched it online, and joined my local branch.Prior to Fierce Grace, I was just practicing the normal Bikram yoga which was just the same series of 26 postures for every class. Fierce Grace gave me options. It allows me to go deeper into my practice. I love the variety of classes, and all the teachers bring something different to each class.Fierce Grace is amazing.
Why a 100 Day Challenge?
I previously did a 90 Day hot yoga challenge for great Ormond Street Charity in 2011. That was very challenging but thoroughly enjoyable. I went deeper with my postures. Some that I couldn’t do previously just fell into place during the challenge. I just had a beautiful little baby boy in August, and I’m just thankful for his health I just wanted to give back. Hence the challenge for charity.
I chose this particular charity because I love Great Ormond Street and appreciate the work they do. As someone with three wonderful children, sometimes we tend to forget about those who are struggling with a sick child. To have hospital like GOSH there to care for the really sick children and make them better is really amazing. Especially when you see them all grown up and adults in the community. It’s important to support them financially to ensure they can keep doing the great work they do.
The 100 Day Challenge
My practice has definitely changed. I can now do a proper back bend and the pain in my spine from my epidural has completely disappeared. I still struggle with some postures, but with time I’ll get better.I use the full range of classes to work my whole body but my favourite is classic. It’s still tough as nails, but I really enjoy it.I love triangle pose! It’s funny, but every time I do triangle I feel free, like I release the stress, the worries, the tension and everything else I want to get rid of.Standing head to knee still eludes me, but I will keep pushing.Watch this space!
I’ve lived in Tulse Hill for about 12 years and I love how vibrant Brixton/Tulse Hill is. Brockwell Park is amazing! I love hanging out here in the summer, picnicking with the kids, and I love the Ritzy Cinema, it’s very cosy and welcoming.