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.
This month at GAIN Mobility
We’ve been concentrating on over head mobility during Fitness Yoga classes this month, with the secondary focus of handstand progressions as well. The progress in both these areas have been fantastic. Shoulder strength and mobility improved and some fears overcome. March sees the focus shift to hips. Working on hip mobility is a huge benefit to all. A seated life style (the office and lots of driving for example) can really mess with our hip mobility, which can transfer problems to our back. Getting open and mobile hips will not only help with reducing injury it’ll also help with our squat position and the power we can generate from that full hip extension in our lifts.
There is also an emotional element to hip openers. There appears to be a link between opening the hips and the release of old tension and trauma, whether it one large event or lots of small ones. It has been suggested that when we hear bad news or suffer grievances, the natural response is to hug our knees to our chest or choose the foetal position, and with this contraction of the hips we seem to embody the trauma within the muscles there. Stretching the hips seems to release some of that tension. So over next month, don’t be surprised if you come away from class feeling a little relieved, teary or lighter. You’ve just taken your yoga practice a little deeper.
On Sunday March 17th we have The Upside Down Workshop at 1:30pm at GAIN Fitness.
This will be 90 minutes of working on both headstands and handstands; we shall start by learning about the benefits of inversions and why I encourage GAIN Mobility members to learn the skill of one or the other. We shall then warm up and start with various headstand progressions and then positions (as there are plenty to play around with). We then move onto handstands and various progressions to work on getting into them. If you already have handstands we have various inversions for you to work on to challenge yourself further. It cannot be stressed enough. This workshop is inclusive for all, no matter what your current upside down ability.
Click the link and use the password: gainfitness19
To try out 7 days of Core Strength.
February UpdateHow are your New Year's resolutions going?
January has passed us by in a blur of chilly days and 5k runs. Most of us will have started the year ready for normality to resume after the Christmas break, but with a few resolutions added in for good measure.
A lot of people use January as a time to set new goals, reestablish good habits and try to break bad ones. But as we reach February, how are your resolutions holding up?
Creating new habits is never easy. But once they're created, they're hard to break so getting through the early stages is well worth the work.
At the start of January GAIN Mobility hosted a Mindfulness Meditation workshop and we discussed getting meditation into a busy schedule and how plausible it would be to keep it up. Here are the top take away tips for creating any new habit.
What's important when starting something new, such as meditation, is to reward yourself. Something becomes a habit when there is a reward at the end of it. The reward being the feeling of calm after meditation, or the endorphin hit after a work out, or the fresh minty feeling you get after cleaning your teeth (yep, cleaning your teeth is a habit).
So look for the reward in the habit you're creating, no matter how small.
The second thing we require when making a new habit is a trigger, something that makes you want to carry out said behaviour. Something such as your alarm clock could be a trigger. If every morning your alarm goes off and the first thing you do is meditate, over time the alarm will become the trigger to meditate. Or perhaps, finishing work is your trigger to go to the gym. Or your first coffee of the morning marks the point at which you're ready to get outside for your run. Each of these things can be a trigger which leads you to carry out your new habit. Find the trigger and work with it to help ingrain your habit.
We also require motivation to continue with our new habit. I'm sure we all know how motivation ebbs and flows and is never quite where it needs to be at the times we need it most. So to help tackle this motivation speed bump, break down as many barriers as you can before starting a new day.
Sunday night motivation might be at an all time high, so now is the time to get the mat out, next to the bed ready for your morning meditation. Or to get all your gym gear out and ready to put straight on so you can go to the gym. Perhaps its having your food ready for the next day so you can maintain your healthy eating. Use your motivation highs to knock down barriers that might occur in the future.
If you're finding the barriers are down but you're still not consistently getting your new habit in, it could be worth looking at your goals. Are they realistic, are you trying to do too much all at once? Thirty minutes of meditation every day might be overkill to start with. Hitting the gym six days a week could be leaving you feeling sore and unlikely to go back. Try to start small and build up. If you make five minutes of meditation each day to begin with, it's more likely that over time you'll increase this willingly and already have the five minute habit to build on. Perhaps start with the going to yoga once a week, and the gym two or three and work up from there.
Sometimes getting started is the way to kick start your motivation. The action proceeds the motivation, and usually once we've started something we're likely to want to finish it. Starting a run with the aim of doing 5k might seem daunting, but when you hit that half way point it's highly unlikely you'll give up. You'll want to keep going and get the satisfaction of finishing what you started.
Build your A Team:
If you spend a lot of time with people that don't have similar habits or goals it can be much more challenging to stick to something new. If no one else in your circle goes to the gym or your friends scoff at the idea of meditation, it's likely to knock your motivation on the head. You could try encouraging your loved ones to join you at the gym. Or get to know the other members of your yoga classes, so you're able to create some accountability within the group. "See you on Wednesday" can have a powerful effect on your motivation come Wednesday, knowing you've told someone you'll be there. Start by telling the teacher and work up from there.
It's not all or nothing:
What we must remember is that it takes time to build a habit, depending on the complexity of the new task it could be from 18 and 250 days. But the longer you stick with it the easier it becomes. Week one will always be much more challenging than week eight. Bear in mind that if you miss a day, it's not all over. Step away from the 'all or nothing' concept. No damage has been done by missing one day, look to start again the very next one and get back on track.
Finally a little self love:
Looking at setting a habit for the sake of someone else, or what people might think of you rings alarm bells. This habit will most likely fail. Set your goals from a place of self love and not something your ego might want. If you want to get healthier then you're likely to succeed. If you want to join a gym because you want to look better for other people, you're less likely to stick to this habit. Be kind to yourself and keep your goals in line with your own principles and beliefs. If you go off track for a little while, get back to it with love ('I've been busy and trying to get more in would've been too stressful.' 'I'm excited about this goal again now'.) Frustration and lack of belief in yourself will become harder barriers to break in the future, ('I can't stick to anything'. 'I'll never be mobile'. 'I just can't wake up early'.) These negative thoughts become our truths if we tell ourselves enough. Let the truths you tell yourself have a positive impact on your life.
Yoga is not for everyone for countless reasons. For some, it’s a lack of time, others a lack of desire or understanding of what yoga is. Some find it’s not a cost they can justify. Or if there is only x amount of hours in a week to workout, yoga is not how one of those hours should be spent. If you’re not interested you’re not interested, but for those who aren’t sure what it is, or who have never tried yoga, we thought we’d fill you in.
GAIN Mobility was created with CrossFit in mind. As a yoga teacher, a CrossFit coach and a Personal Trainer at GAIN Fitness Norwich it was hard not to notice how the way people move was holding them back from their full potential in CrossFit classes. And more alarmingly, it was putting them on a fast track to injury. This got me, and other coaches a little worried. We always encourage members to stretch at the end of class, but is 5 minutes enough to undo years of sitting at a desk? Or years of endurance sports such as long distance running? Carrying children on one hip? Or even years of building muscle in a ‘regular’ gym? The list goes on, and the answer is probably no. 5 minutes stretching at the end of class probably won’t do much to change or improve any ones range of movement.
GAIN Mobility’s Fitness Yoga classes take into consideration the common struggles of the everyday CrossFitter, such as the struggle with overhead mobility. There are so many factors that can cause this but unfortunately, a lot of us spend most of our days at a desk causing our range of movement to suffer. It also helps terrorise our squat, rendering us unable to squat to full depth, or causes pain when we do.
The wonderful thing about CrossFit is that we are able to train around most injuries, and we are able to rest the afflicted ailment. But when the injury recovers it’s likely to reoccur, due to the fact our mobility may well be the same or even less due to not keeping mobile during our recovery period.
Yoga, or what we consider yoga today, was designed thousands of years ago with the goal of being able to sit comfortably for hours on end to practice meditation. No joke. The postures we practice were designed to increase the muscular endurance and flexibility required to sit and meditate for hours (or even days). Have you ever tried sitting on the floor cross-legged with no support, with a straight back for more than half an hour? It starts to burn.
So straight away our basic yoga postures look to improve our core strength, our hip mobility, our ankle mobility and the position of our spine to name a few. All of these directly improve our ability to perform well and avoid injury from CrossFit.
Having always come at yoga from a strictly ‘fitness’ perspective, I trundled off to Nepal do a second and third teaching qualification in hope to gain some spiritual insight into the practice. Having always been a bit of a sceptic I was pretty disgruntled that from day one we were expected to chant and sing mantras. Little did I know that these would become such an ingrained part of my day that without them I felt a little lost. There was a huge focus on meditation and mindfulness throughout both the different styles of yoga I went to Nepal to learn about. Never once did I expect these aspects to affect my Fitness Yoga practice. Nor did I think it would help CrossFit in any way. It turns out I was wrong.
For those of you who haven’t done yoga before, may I use this opportunity to tell you yoga is hard! I was asked a few weeks ago if any calories were burnt during a yoga class. If you’re unsure, come along and try it. (That GAIN Fitness members now books into the Wednesday night class that’s included in her membership, every week without fail). It does depend on the style of yoga you practice, but you can burn a lot of calories in just 45 minutes. We’ve had members in class with a heart rate of 165bpm, we’ve left puddles of sweat on the mats, we’ve been out of breath, shaking with effort and feeling the deepest burn, in muscles we weren’t aware we had. It’s been announced mid class that “Yoga is harder than CrossFit” before, so there you have it. Yoga is challenging, and yoga in Nepal was just as challenging, so much so that during one particularly gruelling class our Guru announced almost flippantly, “pain is temporary.” This very quickly became something like a mantra to me. During holds that were uncomfortable and challenging I’d repeat to myself (in my head) “pain is temporary, pain is temporary, pain is temporary”. Then before I knew it, the hold was over and I’d achieved holding that posture much longer than I would’ve without the mantra. Just by reminding myself that the pain was soon to be over, that the pain was making me stronger, better, fitter, more mobile and so on. Strangely enough, when I got back from a month in Nepal, my first CrossFit class hurt, a lot, and this little mantra got me through that work out and has continued to help with many since. I’m not claiming that you have to use this mantra to make yourself better at CrossFit, but what yoga does offer you when practiced, is a calm patient and resilient mind. This will enable you to push harder into a workout, hold on for a bit longer, lift a little heavier and take yourself away from the pain of what you’re actually doing.
Being more aware of our thoughts and how they affect our actions is a huge part of why we meditate. If during a workout you tell yourself “I cannot lift this barbell it’s too heavy”, or “if I do another burpee my lungs will definitely explode.” The odds are you’ll stop, you will spends seconds or minutes trying to recover before talking yourself into getting down on the floor again, or attempting to lift that barbell.
What meditation can help with is making you more aware of what you’re thinking, it helps you quieten your mind, enabling you to just get on and get work done. Your mind will give up over and over but your body can always carry on. The two elements of yoga (the postures and meditation) combined with CrossFit seem to be getting results in both gym and in the yoga studio. Squats are becoming deeper, recovery is speeding up, and we’re gaining strength both physically and mentally.
And this is what yoga is all about.
Blog Post 1:
GAIN Mobility has been running at 14 classes per week for 3 months now, and each month we have a different focus. August we had core strength, throughout September we worked hard on overhead mobility, and October (we finished today) we had the squat program. Each month similar postures and sequences would come up every class to allow members to practice, get a feel for each posture and then have the time to work on it. This has resulted in great improvements over the 4 short weeks, with more and more members hitting the advanced poses and more members feeling their improvements as the weeks go by.
November brings us a new focus: strength and stability.
GAIN Mobility was born from the determination to help CrossFitters move well, improve lifts and reduce the risk of injury. The overhead focus speaks for itself. A lot of the common lifts and movements performed in CrossFit involve lifting overhead. With so many members struggling to get their arms straight over their head it was a concern I was keen to address and will always continue to do so. The squat program doesn’t need much of an explanation either. At CrossFit, every day is leg day, so the importance of nailing our squat position goes without saying. This improvement in mobility will transfer to the squat, but it will also help with cleans, the snatch, wall balls and thrusters, as well as take a lot of pressure of various joints such as your knees, ankles and back.
Core strength, and strength and stability, as focus months might not be so obvious. They’re equally as important as the overhead and the squat program due to the fact they will help reduce your risk of injury (As well as make you stronger, win!). Without strength and stability at our shoulders for example, we are much more likely to cause damage. Maybe even enough damage that we can’t train or lift overhead for a while.
So we might be able to get the weight overhead, but can we keep it there safely? Can we bring it down safely? Are we engaging during the lift? Is our core working to help us with our lifts?
Have you ever tried to do a headstand? Having taught many members to do a headstand it’s amazing the realisation on their face when they get it right. Usually this happens right after I say, “tense your abs and squeeze your butt.” They switch on through the midline and voila, they’re balanced. Moving away from gymnastics or fancy tricks. When front squatting for example, if you don’t engage your core the odds are the barbell will pull you down and forwards and your ability to stand that bar up is minimal. Every movement we perform starts at the core and ends at our extremities, so we strengthen the core, we stabilise and strengthen the joints and watch our movements (whether it be CrossFit or Yoga) become more controlled, stronger and a lot safer.
We have two more things to focus on within our yoga sessions at GAIN Mobility. The Vinyasa Flow sequence being the first of them. We have just one week left of the current sequence. It’s been challenging and created some high thresholds to lactic acid (the quad burn has been real). What’s been really special is the number of members that have nailed their piking headstands this month. I haven’t been kind, insisting we practice our pikes, workshops have happened regularly and tips and tricks pulled out of the bag, but the improvements have been worth the time, hard work and patience.
Next month we move into a sequence with at least two movements we’ve not done before at GAIN Mobility, and I’m excited to introduce them to you. Remember you don’t have to join the class at the start of the sequence; we relearn and refresh every Vinyasa class. Everything is scalable and it’s the most wonderful form of moving meditation. Get booked in… You don’t have to be a member, drop ins are always welcome.
The mention of moving meditation brings me so concisely onto our last point of focus. Mindfulness meditation.
We have 5 minutes mindfulness at the end of each class. Just 5. Most of the classes are fit to bursting with CrossFitters and their ardent desire to work hard for as long as possible, so getting them to lay down for more than 5 minutes isn’t always easy.
Throughout this meditative 5 minutes I ask members to focus on their breath, and just their breath. Have you ever tried this?
You will undoubtedly realise that your mind is never quiet. An internal monologue turns on as soon as we try to switch off. A great looming:
“Helloooooo, remember that time in middle school that you fell over in that puddle and everyone thought you’d wet yourself… OR remember how hungry you were before class? Well now your starving. It’s going to be really embarrassing if your tummy rumbles now… How about we explore the avenue of how much work you should be doing right now…”
And so on. Switching this off entirely would be a challenge. Realising it’s always there and this is what your mind is doing most of the time is also something to come to terms with. Surely it’s exhausting?
So with our 5 minutes of meditation we look to focus on the breath, just the breath, and allow the torrent of thoughts that we have just pass us by. These thoughts WILL distract you. They have a power to pull you away, but it is important to realise that this doesn’t matter. What we hope to achieve is the realisation that you’re not thinking about the breath. So you quieten the thoughts and get back to that focus. It may happen 50 times in 5 minutes, but this doesn’t matter. Each time you bring the thought back to the breath it is progress. The temptation to get frustrated will be there, but if we feed this frustration then it is likely our mind will stop even noticing what we’re thinking about, as this just leads to frustration. So be kind to the thought process, let it go on its way and take your focus back to the breath.
Inhale. Exhale. Namaste.
Alex Howarth, owner of GAIN Mobility, Fitness, Astanga, Hatha and Vinyasa teacher. Lover of meditation and writing. Even if I can't spell.