Do you use yoga as your main form of exercise?
For years now, Alex Howarth Yoga has encouraged not only stretching but strength and so much more into your yoga practice, and here’s why.
When I first started teaching yoga I was all about the functionality of the stretches, we stretched to get more range of movement, we wanted more range of movement so we were able to move well and lift more, it was as simple as that. But then as my own education and yoga experience continued I realised how much more there is to it, and how the huge range of movements we practice on the mat can have a huge knock on effect to the other movement and sports we take part in off the mat.
You may know from practicing yoga with me that we work on strengthening as much as we do stretching and lengthening the muscles, I encourage the use of tiny movements to perfect a pose and ensure you’re helping your body get the most from the pose.
Stability, balance, flexibility, strength, coordination and even, sometimes, cardio are bought together to help you achieve the best all round yoga practice you can have.
And I can’t tell you how much I wish it was enough…
Many yoga teachers have been convinced that their yoga sequence is everything anyone needs for all round health and wellbeing… But let’s be honest, we know that can’t be right, and I am not about to tell you that it is. And as much as I love to see you on your mat as much as possible, I urge you to apply more than just yoga to your weekly exercise regime.
Last year I introduced many of you to the concepts of Ayurveda, an ancient science that addresses everything from diet, sleep, meditation, breath work and movement, and it compliments a yoga practice in many ways.
I’ll be honest, I was shocked to discover how many of my regular yogis, those of you that practice yoga with me 2+ times per week, either don’t do any other for of exercise or just add cardio to your weekly movement plan, and the biggest shock to me was the fear some of you had of lifting something heavy.
If we use the 3 categories of exercise found in Ayurveda as a guide, it will help keep things clear.
Ayurveda recommends we combine Cardio (running, walking, skipping, boxing, swimming etc), Hardening (weight training, lifting, pulling, pushing load etc) and Softening (yoga, tia chi, pilates, stretching etc) exercises into our weekly movement plan.
A lot of you have the Softening in place with your yoga practice, many of you have the Cardio element in place, but there were many of you that hadn’t or didn’t want to lift in any way.
We gain some strength from yoga, we absolutely do! But resistance training where we use a weight that isn’t your own bodyweight stimulates muscle growth in a different way, and because we are able to apply larger loads we can create bigger adaptions to the body.
Lifting weights will help you maintain muscle and bone density that slowly diminish with age, it will reduce the likelihood of a break should you fall. It will help you stand taller. You will feel more confident. And there is no doubt you will find not only your yoga practice easier, but your chosen cardio too. The stronger your legs the stronger your push into the floor as you run. The stronger your shoulders the heavier your punch or the more effective your golf swing. The stronger your core the better your balance and ability to hold that plank for just 10 more seconds.
But let’s address a common fear… Getting ‘bulky’. The odds of you lifting a few weights a couple of times a week then suddenly becoming ripped, with bulging biceps is slim to none. That kind of looks takes serious work and dedication. When I’m talking about lifting weights, our goal is to support muscle growth, bone strength and joint health and stability. So don’t worry, you’re not going to need to change your wardrobe to allow space of massive shoulders, but you will probably feel a bit ‘tighter’ in a good way, you may find a little more shape and definition in all the right places.
So we’ve established why lifting weights is important, but getting started can be terrifying… often lifting weights means joining a gym, or buying equipment that you don’t know how to use, so I want to tell you about an opportunity that could make your introduction too, or recommencement of, lifting very simple.
Every Saturday morning at 10am I now teach a Power class at Hustle, Norwich. Hustle is a boxing gym at it’s roots, but Hustle has grown to offer a huge amount of variety in their classes, including Power classes, so everyone can get their weight training in too (It’s not just me that knows it’s important).
These classes are 60 minutes, and my Saturday class focuses specifically on lifting, but on lifting and moving WELL. With 9 years of yoga under my belt and 5 years of coaching CrossFit, it’s almost impossible for me to allow you to lift badly.
We break down the movements we are working on each session, we start light and practice until the movement is right for you. Once you’ve got it right we apply load, and this could be something small to start with, such as a 6kg slam ball or a 5kg dumbbell, but over the weeks as you learn the foundations you will find you’re able to apply more weight, move with more confidence and be able to walk into a class knowing what your body is capable of.
In each and every class with me you will get coached, suggestions and adjustments will be made that are just for you. You will come away from every class having learnt at least one thing, if not about the movement, it’ll be about yourself. You will be able to take what you learn in these classes into all areas of your fitness, such as other classes at Hustle, out on your runs or onto your yoga mat.
Hustle owner, Bobby, is offering a free class to anyone new to Hustle, all you need to do is head to the website.
Hustle offer a great range of class passes, so you don’t need to sign up for a monthly membership to come along to the Power class with me on a Saturday, nor do you have to turn up every week (even though I recommend it).
If you have any questions about strength training, joining me for a class at Hustle, or incorporating more cardio into your life I’m always here to help.
Love and light
Warriors and Worriers was an interesting month to embark upon. It was the first time I'd used a mindset as a focus point across the month, and I didn't want it to get lost with the excitement of all the Warrior poses, so I chose to break worrying down week by week, much like we break down the physical poses across the month long focus.
We start with the basics and the groundwork and we build from there, and this is exactly what we have done with Worry.
In week one we considered the origin of worrying. Why do we as humans worry so much?
The basic principle is that we evolved to predict danger as a way to help us survive. Seems simple enough, "can a tiger easily walk into my cave?" "If I light a fire there is it going to burn everything in sight? If I behave this way is my tribe going to abandon/kill me?
And I'm sure there were many other, seriously scary and worrying things to consider in the time of this human development.
No however, our worries are very different, we don't need to worry about tigers, finding food or being killed by our own tribes quite so much. We have basic living down, we, for the most part, are able to put food on our tables, sleep in a warm comfortable bed, we have people in our lives we trust and care for and we usually have a wifi connection. Yet worry is at an all time high, with many of us struggling with anxiety every single day.
If we accept, based on the reason worrying evolved, that worry is a form of 'looking forward' then we can embrace the idea that being present may be a calmer place to be.
Which was our next step in our 'Worriers' journey. We practice our mindfulness at the end of almost every physical practice and usually at the beginning too. We take a few breaths just to bring our mind to our mat, to our body and to our breath. By doing so we bring our attention to the present moment, our mind is briefly held in a place of calm, and escapes the unending chitter chatter of the mind that is often on a repeat, relentlessly in our own heads.
So to escape the worry, we know there is power in being present. By practicing our mindfulness we develop the ability to notice when our mind has run away with us, not just on the mat, but in day to day life.
In week 2 we started to discuss looking forward and how worry sits in the future, in the what if's the fake scenarios, the conversations, events and catastrophes that haven't happened yet. And I should add, usually don't happen.
When was the last time you worried incessantly about something, then when the time came it was exactly as you imagined it? Hardly ever! We assume the worst from every situation, and by doing so ruin our own day.
Imagine a day clear of worry. Imagine a mind that didn't fixate on the negative things that might happen. It would be a wonderful thing.
In week 3 we then considered worrying about things we can't control.
This is a common one in the world of worrying, and we can often get completely absorbed in thinking about things that we have no control over. A very common one is other people's behaviour. We cannot, ever, control another person's behaviour. Therefore worrying about how someone might behave, respond, act, what time they might show up, what they might say is utterly pointless. By bringing the focus (not worry) back onto yourself you can be sure to listen fully, respond with kindness and compassion and truth. This way you will be the best version of you, rather than concerning yourself with what the other person might do.
An example, I discussed just this weekend, was worrying about what time my partner might come home form a night out.
Well... what does it matter? He's out with his friends. The best thing I can do is live my own life, do what I want to do and when I want to do it with no consideration for what he might be up to or when he might be home... I cannot, and will never be able to control that.
This means I had a great evening! Went to bed and slept like a log. Whereas the flip side would worrying about where he was, what he's up to, and getting cross with every hour that passes and he's still not home. I not only ruin my own night, but the odds our I'd ruin both our mornings when I wake up cross and take my pointless worrying out on him.
Week 4, we finish the month by considering looking back.
Looking back is a weird kind of worry, often we get wrapped up in replaying events and reliving uncomfortable emotions. All this does is makes us worry in the present moment, and for what?
We cannot change what has happened, we cannot change how we, or anyone else behaved, therefore dwelling on it, worrying about it and how the event makes us appear within society is utterly pointless.
Often when we reply things in our head it is because we are concerned about how others view us; "did I sound stupid?" "Do they hate me now?" "Should I have said that?" " What if they don't get back to me?". It's the ego running away with what other people might think. And as I said above, it is impossible to control the behaviours of others.
The only time I would say it is good to look back at a scenario that perhaps didn't play out the way you'd hoped or planned, is to learn from it. What could you perhaps do going forward to make something more comfortable for you. You cannot control the behaviours of others, therefore listen fully, act with kindness and compassion and speak your truths, that way you are unlikely to come away from something filled with worry and dread.
Love and light
Yin at The Painted Barn is changing, and here's what's to come.
You may have heard that from the end of October the structure of Yin Yoga classes at The Painted Barn is changing.
You will be able to guarantee your space for 8 weeks in a row and really feel the benefits of your weekly practice. The 8 weeks will be linked with an overall focus and similar postures will come up throughout each class.
For this Autumn term we will be looking to do warming postures, allowing us to keep warm as the weather gets colder. As we hunch forward against the cold, we round our backs and pull our shoulders forward, this shortens the muscles across the chest and shoulders and causes them to tighten, and this can cause a lot of tension, aches and pains across the back of your body too. Therefore the postures we will focus on most will open the chest, stretch across the top of the back and warm the body.
With the season change and the nights getting darker earlier we can also experience a change in our mood. This could be for any number of reasons, but by paying attention to our thoughts, we put ourselves into the position to change and improve our mindset as winter comes in. By practicing a slightly different way to achieve this positive mindset each week, we can choose to feel positive as the Autumn rolls into winter and enjoy the last few months of this year without letting the shorter days and cold weather get to us.
We have limited spaces available in the class, this is for a couple of reasons. One, it gives us more space in the studio, so you can spread out with your props and blanket and not worry about intruding on another's space. And two, it allows for teaching time in every class. With a studio full to bursting I wouldn't be able to offer you one on one teaching every class. I always hope you come away feeling you got the best practice for your body, therefore I want to be able to help you get into the right postures, show you how to prop best and where to put what prop and when. Therefore we have just 10 spaces available to book for this Autumn term.
The first class begins on Friday 1st November and runs through until December 20th. There will then be a catch up class available on Jan 3rd should you miss any of the 8 sessions due to holiday or sickness.
Get booked in today to ensure you get the early bird price on this relaxing 8 week course. Early bird offer ends soon.
All new classes are coming soonYou may have heard that the studio space at GAIN Fitness Norwich, is undergoing a bit of a change. The studio will be hosting different classes and a space for one-off events or more regular activities.
What's on already:
If you'd like to offer classes at The Studio at GAIN we have times available throughout the week for both one off sessions or more regular bookings. Hire prices vary accordingly. Get in touch to find out more.
The Happiness Workshop is now on sale!
Thursday 26th September 6-8pm at The Studio @ GAIN Fitness. Alex Howarth Yoga is excited to host Gavin Drake, the director of Mindspan, for a 2 hour workshop devoted to happiness.
We will learn techniques and life hacks to help you become happier more often. We all have ups and downs in life, but the skills we learn in this workshop will help us bounce back faster, help us sit on a happier level more consistently and give you the confidence to take control of your happiness rather than rely on others to make it for you.
This workshop is not suitable for those who enjoy being miserable day in day out. But if you're ready to make a change and consider new ideas and new ways of thinking, then this is for you.
The workshop will include:
Same yoga, different name.
Welcome to Alex Howarth Yoga
GAIN Mobility has rebranded to Alex Howarth Yoga. It's still the same yoga, the same Alex, the same focus and the same locations, just under a different name.
The website has undergone a make over, as have the social media platforms. This is a transition phase though, so things such as the Facebook name have to be accepted so may take a while to change over. Older videos on the online yoga platform may still sport the GAIN Mobility branding, so please bare with us as we change everything over.
The previously known GAIN Mobility Online is now under Alex Howarth Yoga, with the social media platform changing to Alex Howarth Yoga Online. The YouTube Channel can now be found under Alex Howarth Yoga too so you won't miss anything.
Over the last 6 weeks throughout Yin Yoga we’ve had the mindfulness focus of Satya, (truthfulness).
Truthfulness doesn’t strike most as an obvious focus for a yoga class, and I understand this hesitation, but throughout the month it’s become clear how we can hold back on being honest with ourselves.
During Yin classes I encourage yogis to close their eyes, or keep a very relaxed gaze. This is for two reasons, the first being, it’s easier to relax and keep your focus on you by limiting outside distractions. Closing your eyes, allows you to bring your awareness into how you’re feeling, how you’re breathing, and the posture you’re holding. It also prevents us from looking around the yoga studio at others.
Looking at others while practicing yoga seems harmless enough, but what it can lead to is comparison.
“How come he can do that? He’s only been coming to yoga 3 weeks?”
“She’s so much stronger than I am, I’m so weak.”
“They can hold that postures so effortlessly, I’ll never be able to do that.”
The 3 above statements aren’t unusual thoughts throughout a yoga practice. How do I know? Because sometimes yogis voice these thoughts too.
Now these common opinions are just that, opinions. Based on what? These are judgments we may come up with in a split second with no knowledge of that person, their ability, their yoga history, and their bio-individuality. Therefore what we decide is our opinion of someone’s ability in a certain posture may not be completely true. Someone may look like a posture is effortless, but inside they’re working their absolute hardest. We will never know in at moment, therefore we should not create that judgement.
We can also turn these untruths onto ourselves. Phrases such as ‘I’ll never be able to do that.’ are often followed with the yogi then achieving the posture they never thought they’d do. Why would we lie to ourselves in such a way?
‘I’m so weak.’ is another common misconception. Are you weak? Compared to whom? In what context? You’ve the mental strength and determination to come and practice yoga, that in itself suggests you are not ‘weak’.
The comfort of these little white lies can help us with our own self-esteem. We create an opinion of others to help us feel better about the insecurities that person brings out in us. It takes a lot of practice to reduce these little habits, to allow ourselves to look at a situation or a person with truthfulness rather than judgment.
We can be look at the stories we tell ourselves, drawing on Ahimsa (non-violence), we can look to be kind to ourselves rather than judgemental.
The final non-truth we'll cover today, that we may commit throughout our practice is not listening to our body. Our bodies cannot lie to us. If we need to stop or slow down, we will feel the need to. If we need to work hard, use excess energy or get a good sweat on, our body will tell us.
Within yoga we can allow our ego to take hold. Our ability to do one posture during one practice but then not be able to so well the following practice becomes irritating. Rather than listen to our body we continue to push it perhaps a little further than we should have. This can have negative results, we can end up not enjoying our practice at all, or worse, we could end up injured. At the start of a practice it is always worth taking a moment to listen to your body, withdraw your mind from the outside world and venture in. How are you feeling? From here, you’re able to set your intention for your session. Do we work hard today? Or do we take it easy? Do we test the water and just see how it goes.
Try it now. Close your eyes. How are you feeling?
GAIN Mobility is adding more classes. At a new location!
GAIN Mobility is excited to announce two new yoga classes at a new location. Just 15 minutes from Norwich, near the small village of Barnham Broom is the stunning Painted Barn.
Set to open at the end of May 2019, the Painted Barn is a beautiful space offering a vintage furniture store and cafe, and just off to one side is this glorious studio space.
The studio offers a bright airy space to practice your yoga, with gorgeous views of the Norfolk countryside and heated floors to keep you toasty in the winter.
With 2 classes per week scheduled to start in just over a month, I'm excited to be offering another space with a different energy to our current studio.
Offers will be coming soon with both membership options and trial class passes. If you're already a member with GAIN Mobility, keep an eye out for two location membership upgrades.
What to expect from GAIN Mobility at the Painted Barn
Ahimsa: Non violence
Teaching yoga on a regular basis, means I come into contact with a fair few people over the course of an average week and as much as the yoga I teach is suitable for any ability, there can be the odd posture that’s slightly more advanced. It’s during these postures that the negativity can fill the room.
‘I can’t possibly do that!’
‘Never in a million years will I be able to do that.’
‘I’m not good enough.’
‘I’m not strong enough.’
‘I’m not flexible enough.’
And the list goes on. It would be an impressive statement to claim having never thought or said any of the above in any kind of situation. It’s very easy to have little belief in our own ability. But when it comes to a loved one, friends, family or even vague acquaintances we are so quick (and not wrongly so) to tell them how much they can do. How they are good enough, strong enough, able to do something they themselves don’t believe they can do. So why do we not apply this logic to ourselves?
Ahimsa, meaning non-violence is one of the first stages of Ashtanga yoga, and part of the Yama’s. These are the social rules that we should look to achieve before taking on later stages to the path of enlightenment. At first glace this could be taken to mean non-violence towards others, and as much as it does mean this. It also incorporates violence of any kind, therefore we should look to reduce or completely eliminate the violence towards ourselves as well.
This is of course a larger task than we might think. Negative self-talk is one thing, but the thoughts we have take effect too. Becoming aware of the things we’re saying out-loud is perhaps the easier one to grasp to begin with. Having your friends and family on board may help you bring awareness to your spoken word. If your friends hear you speaking negatively about yourself they can help you change your story to something more positive and with self-love at the heart of it.
Being mindful of this is challenging to start with but as we get the hang of it, and start paying attention to our words it becomes a habit, much like anything else we repeatedly do. The negative self-talk may well be a habit in itself that’s been developed over years for one reason or another. There was a time where it served you, now it’s time to realise that it doesn’t serve you for good any more. With that in mind, we shouldn’t go into this thinking it’ll be an over night transformation, breaking habits takes work. But the work is well worth doing.
Once we are aware of our spoken word we can look to conquer the violence we may think. Being aware of what we’re thinking is one of the goals of mindfulness meditation; awareness of when we’re thinking and what we’re thinking. With regular meditation practice we can improve our awareness greatly and with that look to change the negative thoughts we have about ourselves.
Throughout our Yin classes we hold each posture for minutes at a time. Being mindful with this time is a great place to start our quest to non-violence. Are you aware of your thoughts during each posture? Within your next practice, why not try the following:
If you take anything from this post, let it be that you deserve kindness, not only from those around you but also from yourself. This kindness will allow you to achieve more than you ever thought possible.
A new month commences and with it comes a new focus across all the GAIN Mobility classes. Keep reading to find out what's to come throughout April.
Fitness Yoga This month our Fitness Yoga focus is Rotations. Rotations seems pretty vague but the benefits we can reap from this are plentiful. As always the Fitness Yoga programming is designed with CrossFit, functional movement and recovery in mind. Here are just some of the positive implications of working on rotations:
Yin Yoga Yin is still a relatively new addition to the GAIN Mobility timetable, but the new style of yoga seems to have taken off well. Adding a new dimension to our active time table, Yin offers a much more low key approach to mobility. We spend 3-5 minutes in each posture, allowing our connective tissue and fascia to respond and stretch, and our minds to quieten and focus.
Over the last 6 weeks we have worked on a similar set of 8 postures, from next week we have a different set of postures to sink into. Feel yourself improve each session, and allow yourself to take a break from your busy schedule by booking into Yin Yoga.
Vinyasa Flow Every 6 weeks we start a new flow sequence. April sees the start of our 7th flow. This is the perfect time to try Vinyasa Flow for the first time, over the 6 weeks we build on the flow as we learn it and get to know the postures, the breath and how to transition. With more complex postures we have time to spend learning the movements and you may find that you achieve postures you never thought you'd be able.
For our Flow regulars, this is the 7th and last new flow for a while, after this we cycle back to Flow number 1, and work back through the 7 different sequences again, giving you all a chance to improve on last time.
Charity Yoga EventThis month GAIN Mobility is running a charity yoga class to help Laura Sides raise money for Dementia Revolution. On Saturday 13th April at 1pm, we are hoping to fill GAIN Fitness for the largest GAIN Mobility class ever!
The class will be suitable for all abilities, so if you've never tried yoga before it'll be the perfect place to start.
To book your place please donate, the amount is open, you choose how much at the time of booking.
Let's help Laura raise as much as she can for a charity that is very close to her heart. Let's have fun, get mobile and do something wonderful.