2016 – Reflections on an Extraordinary Year

 

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2016 … you couldn’t write it!

As we start the last day of what has been extraordinary year of events, I find myself reflecting on all that has happened, as I’m sure many of us do at this time. I often feel strangely melancholic at New Year, with no particular reason other than a sense of passing time, of letting go. It’s the same at the end of the Summer, even though I love the change in seasons and the beauty of Autumn.

This year started with the sad news of David Bowie’s death. His music was a real soundtrack to my teenage years. ‘Hunky Dory’ was the first album that I ever bought and I was really saddened, as many of us were, to hear of his passing. But of course we all die eventually. It is the one certain thing in life and as we get older we are bound to lose not just those close to us but also the people that have been there as mentors and those that have inspired us. A friend once described these moments in our life, as a kind of loss of innocence. These moments of sadness and reflection, of loss and of the subsequent acknowledgement of the preciousness of life are all part of the journey.
We’ve said goodbye to so many musical and creative icons over this last 12 months, many of them a big part of my own journey from teenager into adulthood, from Bowie, Prince, Leonard Cohen, George Michael, Terry Wogan and most recently Carrie Fisher, to name but a few (we all know the list is pretty big). Alongside all of this the whole political landscape of the world has been shifting, or rather it feels more like it has been unravelling, is still unravelling. I’ve always embraced change, even actively sought to create change. It’s what keeps us fresh, alive, open to new adventures and creative challenges. But, embrace it as I try, these political changes have felt different, as if the rug has been pulled from beneath me. I feel unsettled, anxious even about the future. The world feels more precious and more fragile than ever. I’ve literally wept with helplessness this year at images of the conflict in Syria, especially those of the children. I’ve watched David Attenborough’s Planet Earth series filled with awe at the beauty of this planet and at the same time felt sad at how badly we are treating it. And we are about to see the start of a new presidency in the United States with a man who doesn’t believe in climate change! I can’t help but feel that our poor world might be in for a bumpy ride …

I’m not sad to see 2016 draw to a close and yet I still feel a deep sense of sadness and I’ve been sitting with this feeling for a few days to try and understand why. I spend my life sharing a practice which is all about ‘being present’, ‘letting go’, acknowledging our feelings without getting caught up in ‘our story’ . For the most part I think I’m pretty good at doing this. I’m generally a glass half full kind of person and have such a wonderful life, family and friends, for all of which I am so grateful each day.
But something has shifted a little and I find myself looking a little deeper at myself, wondering what my purpose in this life is. I am a mother of two beautiful young women and step mum to another one. They have all spread their wings and are embracing life with all their love and passion as they follow their dreams and I am so proud of them. I am lucky enough to share my life with a truly special man and couldn’t have wished for a better partner in this journey we call life. Somehow, perhaps because of this position of privilege and freedom, I feel a growing need to do more, a call to action if you like, as if just being and living our day to day life is not enough in itself.
My daily practice has, for many years, been my resource. The place where I get to have a good look at myself and find both strength and stillness ready to meet whatever it is that find when I get off my mat and engage in life, which is the real yoga practice.
After all these years of daily practice I have found it hard to be on my mat these last few days. I have found it hard to confront myself, too uncomfortable with what has come up, too hard to simply ‘be’ with these feelings of sadness and fragility and not get caught up in them and I am sharing this because it might resonate with some of you.
Yesterday was one of those perfect beautiful blue sky cold winter days and I decided that my practice was to go out into the garden and get on with some gardening jobs. Getting my hands in the soil and connecting with earth has always been really cathartic for me and yesterday was no different. I started to feel a little clearer and a lot more settled. As the afternoon drew on, a coastal fog started to roll in and Paul and I walked down to the coastal path, the sun just burning through the mist over the sea. The landscape in this part of Dorset is stunning and I again felt those pangs of sadness for our beautiful world and how fragile it is. We watched the sun go down and the fog roll in as we walked back and felt grateful to be here.
When I did finally make it onto my mat this morning … and stay there …. something had shifted. I still feel that sense of sadness and fragility but it’s ok to feel that way. In fact I think it stops us from being complacent, of taking things for granted. That call to action feels stronger than ever and as I reflect on all those amazing souls who left this earth over the last year, something that they all had in common was that they made a difference, they touched our hearts and souls in some way.

Especially at this time of transition and change in an uncertain world, it is so important that we embrace and celebrate all that is good in our lives and in our communities. We all have an important role to play. As we move into a new year, this beautiful planet of ours needs each and every one of us to do what we can, within our communities and families, to look after it and each other, to act with awareness of societies beyond our own. Most importantly, to act with Love and trust that we each have the power to make positive changes. We don’t have to make big gestures and most of us won’t be world famous but let’s see if we really can all work together to make a real difference for 2017.

Happy New Year Everyone!

Helen
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Blog Post – ‘Standing on our own two feet’ – June 2015

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The last couple of months have been such an exciting time, both for me personally and here at our little yoga space in Studland.  In April I had the huge privilege of practicing at the beautiful Purple Valley in India.  It is always so wonderful to be in India and practicing in nearly 40 degrees of heat and humidity was quite something.  I got through my fair share of fresh coconut water over the two weeks.  We had a wonderful group of over 50 practitioners from all over the world and it was so inspiring to watch as John ‘met’ everyone on their mats, whether familiar faces or new, and guided each one through their practice. There were experienced and advanced practitioners in the group as well as complete beginners to yoga and John had the same energy, enthusiasm and compassion for everyone.  I came back feeling huge gratitude for having been able to be there, alongside my friends and teachers Roee and Andy.

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Returning home to the stunning Purbeck countryside is pretty special and I was greeted with the sight of the woods by my home filled with blue bells and wild garlic flowers. Spring had most definitely arrived.  I love this time of year.  It was great to get back to teaching our own little community here too.  A week after my return we were also really lucky to have Scott Parson’s teacher, Ajay Kumar, here in Dorset to teach.  Thank you to everyone who came and practiced and shared in the weekend.  We had a particularly interesting session on the Saturday afternoon exploring Surya Namaskar A.  There is always so much to learn and explore with this practice.  The sun came out too …  perfect for beach picnics at lunchtime.

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I was recently reminded by my teacher Lucy that Gratitude is a practice all of it’s own.  Over the last few months I feel that I really have come to understand the true depth of this.  There are always so many things that we can be grateful for and yet why is it so easy to focus on the things that don’t like about ourselves or our lives, especially when life throws us a few challenges. Maybe there is more drama to be had in the negative. Whatever the reason it is all to easy to create a default pattern of allowing negative thoughts or emotions to dominate.  That doesn’t mean to say that we should always be up-beat about everything either, because that wouldn’t be real, but the finding a way to consciously acknowledge the positive in our lives is a hugely powerful way of finding balance.

What is this practice all about anyway if not to bring our awareness to everything.  Not just in a superficial way but to be able to actually listen, observe, feel ourselves and everything and everyone in our lives in a deep and profound way. We need to be the seer and the seen, to observe without judgement but with acute awareness.  Only then can we be fully effective in whatever we do, fully ‘in relationship’ with others and with ourselves and fully able to realise our creative potential.

So how to we even begin to do that? Where do we start? How about at the beginning …    We start our practice with Samasthithi and in fact we return back to Samasthithi over and over again throughout the practice. It’s as if we keep going back to the start again.  But I wonder how often we are actually fully present in this posture.  It is an asana in its own right.  When I first got back on my mat a few months ago, once I’d finally ditched the crutches after a full hip replacement, Samasthithi WAS my practice!  Then I really started to understand about gratitude, to wake up to what I was doing each day … what I have been doing each day for years!  My teacher John calls Samasthithi  ‘practitioner neutral’ and it does exactly that, brings us back to neutral, back to our mid-line, to a place where we are balanced and fully aware. It has taken me nearly 25 years of practice to actually understand the wisdom and difficulty of this posture.  If I’m honest I’ve never properly thought about it, other than in a superficial way.  I thought I was aware, after all I teach it every day, but it honestly took the experience of my surgery to really teach me what it is to stand on the earth on two feet, fully grounded, with an even foundation. To learn how to stand with strength and lightness and space in the body at the same time but most of all to stand and be FULLY present.

Simply being fully present is the essence of the practice, whether you’re practicing Advanced series or simply Surya Namaskar doesn’t matter. What matters is that you are moving and breathing with awareness.  Ajay’s Surya Namaskar workshop was a lovely reflection on this.  What really brought this home to me though was a conversation with a young student in class recently.  Over the past few months, I have been teaching a little group of young people from one of the Kids Company centres in South London, alongside my great friend and teacher Scott Johnson (of Stillpoint Yoga London).  What we have been sharing with them so far has been really simple … breathing and moving in synchronicity and looking at Surya Namaskar and a few standing postures. Most importantly we have been exploring with them how to simply sit and focus on the breath, how to relax and move mindfully.  One of the young people, who is particularly insightful, relayed the story to me of how, after one of the sessions, he had been on a bus feeling anxious and worried about something and he remembered to sit and simply focus on his breath, to breath more slowly and fully.  He told us how quickly that simple practice made him feel so much calmer and lighter and that he had literally felt like skipping down the street after he got off the bus!  I think of all the years that I have been lucky enough to teach this practice, this story is one of the highlights.  This practice doesn’t have to be complicating or overly challenging.  It can be very simple and very powerful indeed.

 

 

A New Year at the Space

 

 

 

 

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This is one of those beautiful winter days when the temperature has hardly risen above zero but the skies are bright blue and the light is quite stunning.  Days like this remind me not to waste a moment, to go out and make the most of it which is exactly what I did as I downed tools earlier (or rather switched off the computer) and pulled on my wellies to go out and get some fresh air.  I never fail to be in awe of this beautiful countryside that we are lucky enough to live in and I am reminded of how little time out it takes to bring me back to the present and shift my perspective.  It is all too easy to get caught up in the endless list of jobs to do, especially when you run your own business, but the reality is that there will always be jobs on the ‘to do list’, maybe sometimes more than others, but they usually will all get done and we have a choice as to how we perceive being busy.  Being able to be present makes us much more effective, whatever we are doing.

On the subject of ‘to do lists’, I had intended to write a little blog post at the beginning of January to wish everyone a Happy 2015 but January seems to have flown by so far, with so much going on this month at our little yoga space. Likewise, the other important items on the list for this month, such as making marmalade and planting this years garlic and broad beans in the vegetable garden are still to be done, although there is a large box of Seville oranges currently sat on the kitchen table in readiness for this weekends marathon marmalade making session …. life doesn’t get much better!

We started the new year off beautifully with a retreat held by an old friend of ours, Claudia Jones, who runs the Wellness Source.  Claudia has recently moved back to the UK after 10 years running retreat centres in Bali and Thailand before that.  The day was a perfect mix of gentle Yoga, breathing techniques and discussions about wellness in general, with a particular focus on nutrition. It is so important to look after ourselves properly ..  that’s a big part of why I get on a yoga mat each day.  But looking after ourselves is about so much more that just that.  It is how we take care of our own bodies and emotional well being, but also our relationships, being aware of the food we eat and where is comes from (hence the garlic and broad bean planting on my list) but also beyond that, and most importantly, how we take care of our planet and our community.  Like many of us I feel quite passionately about these last two things.  We are really lucky to have a large vegetable garden at home in which we can grow our own food but you don’t need lots of space and if we all cared for our planet responsibly it could feed us all adequately.  As part of our second retreat day here at the Space, led by the lovely Juliette Oliver of Orckid Yoga, we were treated to an afternoon seashore walk and guided ‘forage’ from ‘Fore/adventure’, who run fantastic courses here in Studland and are as passionate about this local landscape as I am.  It was a truly informative and enjoyable few hours , learning how to identify edible wild plants such as wild chives and sea beet, not to mention the numerous varieties of edible seaweed.  Juliettes’ retreat day was then finished off perfectly as we all returned from the afternoon’s forage to be treated to a ‘Sound bath’ from the amazing Bhanu. Incredible!

 

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As for looking after our community, this is for me what yoga is really all about.  It has been wonderful meeting so many new people over these last few months since we opened our doors and our own little yoga community here has been growing steadily. It is really fantastic seeing how people connect with one another and form friendships that go beyond practicing each day on a yoga mat next to one another. After our weekly yoga for pregnancy classes the mum’s to be often hang out for a bit after the class and chat over tea and cake.  These friendships are so important … it is what makes us feel connected, that we ‘belong’ and are supported by our community.  These connections extend beyond us and into our wider social network. We were really inspired last October when Eddie Stern came to Dorset to teach a three day workshop here and he spoke at length about the work he has done in New York City with the ‘Urban Yogis’ project over the last few years.  It was such positive story that we got talking to him a little more at length afterwards, along with my great friend Scott Johnson of Stillpoint Yoga London, and we decided that Scott and I would get involved in starting an ‘Urban Yogis UK’ project here.  We will be starting to work with young people through this project over the coming year and I will be posting up more information about this in the next few weeks.

I personally feel really blessed to belong to such an amazing community of people sharing yoga, not just the lovely teachers that we are lucky enough to have here at the Space but throughout Dorset and the UK. My fellow practitioners and teachers that I’ve known for some years now since we all trained with John Scott and Lucy Crawford, feel like a big family and it is fantastic when we get to see each other at events or workshops such as at the beginning of January when Stillpoint Yoga London hosted their annual fundraising event in memory of their founder and our beautiful friend Ozge. It was such a special day, with two led classes from John Scott, Joey Miles and Scott Johnson and so many people from the yoga community there to support them.  It was also a real pleasure last week to spend five days with a group of our local teachers when Brian Cooper came to Dorset to teach a workshop.  The group worked so hard as they explored different adjustment techniques and thai massage, much of which involved working in groups and sharing information.  It was a lovely reminder that we are all students first and foremost and there is always so much to learn.

Now, where did I put those marmalade jars …

 

 

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Class Schedule Info, Beginners’ and self practice weeks (home page)

Assisted Self Practice weeks

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7 – 11  August 2017

Next Beginners’ Course

24 – 28 July  2017

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Our class schedule is updated regularly. You can see class information and book a space for a particular class or workshop by clicking on this link. There are detailed descriptions of each class in the ‘Class Descriptions’ drop down menu above. Alternatively, by hovering over the class or teacher’s descriptions in the class schedule you will open up a pop up window with more information.  The (Mysore) Assisted self-practice classes are run for 2 – 3 hours and you can arrive and finish your practice whenever you want, as long as you have finished by the end of the class time. They are suitable for all levels but ideally we would recommend attending one of our Foundation / Beginners courses first if you are completely new to the practice. If you are a beginner, please let us know in advance and allow for approximately one hour’s practice for your first visit.  We look forward to seeing you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Charity Led Class – Sunday 14 December

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Annual Christmas Community Class  -  Sunday 14 December.  All proceeds going to the amazing Kids Company organisation … all welcome!

Please join Helen and Natalie for our annual Christmas Charity Class which will be held at in the lovely Studland Village Hall around the corner.  This will replace the scheduled Led Primary series class on Sunday morning and will be open to all levels of practitioner … just come and do what you can do and help us raise as much money as we can for this amazing charity. All proceeds will go towards Kids Company.

This will be a Donation only event and there will be time to get together afterwards for tea and cake.  We look forward to seeing as many of you as we can and if you can come and join us please sign up for the class online via our class schedule so that we will have an idea of numbers attending.  Thank you for your support.

Christmas Gathering and Open Afternoon

 

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We are really looking forward to seeing everyone tomorrow for our Christmas gathering.  We have had a huge interest in the morning taster classes and so some of these are now fully booked so please contact us or check online before coming to any of these so as not to be disappointed.  We still have lots of space for the closing mediation with Juliette and plenty of cake and lovely things to drink for those of you coming along to the afternoon ‘Open House’ between 1pm and 4 pm, where you can come and look around, meet us,  find out about next year’s events and enjoy some cake, hot chocolate and mulled wine. We will also have Gift vouchers for sale to use for classes or workshops next year and discounts on blocks of classes and monthly passes bought on the day.

Here is the schedule for the day, including the morning taster sessions with our lovely teachers .. these are all 20 mins long and free to join but spaces will be limited so drop us a line or book on line via our class schedule if you’d like to come along

11.00 – 11.20 Gentle yoga and Breath Awareness (Helen)
11.30 – 11.50 Intro to Ashtanga yoga (Araxy) 
12.00 – 12.20 Yoga Nidra (Nat)
12.30 – 12.50 Vinyasa flow (Tracy)


1.00 – 16.00 ‘Open House’ … pop in and say hello, have a drink and chat to the teachers about all the lovely things we have going on here … oh and did I mention that there will be cake too!

16.00 – 16.20 Closing Meditation (Juliette) … all welcome!

New Blog Post … Autumn at The Space

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New Blog Post … Autumn at The Space

What an amazing last few weeks we have had here!  It has been wonderful to welcome so many new faces to our little practice space and growing yoga community here in Studland, from the regular students in our early morning Mysore self practice classes, the new students coming along to the various evening classes here and everyone who came to join Eddie Stern’s 3 day workshop a couple of week ago.

see more …

Christmas Charity Class … Sunday 14 December

Save the Date!  On Sunday 14th December we will be holding our annual Christmas fundraising class.  This is an opportunity to get together and practice whilst raising money for an really worth while cause.  There will also be Cake afterwards!  More details about the time and venue coming shortly …

Autumn at The Space

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What an amazing last few weeks we have had here!  It has been wonderful to welcome so many new faces to our little practice space and growing yoga community here in Studland, from the regular students in our early morning Mysore self practice classes, the new students coming along to the various evening classes here and everyone who came to join Eddie Stern’s 3 day workshop a couple of week ago.  It really was an amazing 3 days and we felt so blessed that Eddie agreed to come and share his immense knowledge and experience of yoga here with us,  all with his wonderful compassion and humour.  The lovely village hall was packed, as was most of Studland village, over the weekend as people came not just from our local community but also from across the South of England and Dorset.  We were even blessed with some more Autumn sunshine! There were many highlights over the course of the workshop but for me personally it was listening to his talk about the work with the Urban Yogis project in NYC, which was pretty inspirational … so much so that we have been inspired to start working on a similar project over here … but more of that later … It was also really wonderful to hear so many people chanting together in the afternoon sessions in our Space.  I had always thought that the accoustics here are pretty good and we certainly got to really try them out.  The sounds during the beautiful Puja blessing ceremony on the Saturday evening which Eddie led were amazing.  I felt so lucky to have been a part in creating this practice space and and overwhelming sense of how much our community can do here as we move forward into next year and beyond.  Thank you to everyone who came along to join us and a big thank you also to my wonderful support team of Rebecca Reeves, Scott Johnson, Sophie and Ella who made the whole workshop run smoothly!


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In other news, we have been busy organising some exciting events and workshops for 2015 and beyond.  These will be updated to our website and booking schedule as the details are confirmed and we will let everyone know about things first via our monthly news letters which you can subscribe to if you would like to be kept up to date.  We have also just completed another Ashtanga Foundation course here which was great.  It is always fun to be able to work with these small groups to introduce the fundamental elements of this practice and have the time to explore different things with the Students. Dates for the next course, which will be early in 2015, will be posted up soon and we have also added a new ‘Introduction to the Primary series Level 1′ class to the timetable on a Wednesday eve.  This technique class is designed as a follow on for those that have completed a Beginners / Foundation course or students who have practiced yoga before but are new to the Ashtanga vinyasa method.  The earlier level 2 class will then take students a little further, with the emphasis on developing a self practice.

There will be more classes coming to the timetable over the next few weeks including, by popular request, a new Yoga for Pregnancy class on Wednesday mornings at 10.30 starting later this month and a gentle all level led Ashtanga class on Thursday mornings. We always welcome feedback too so do let us know if there is a particular class or time that you would like to see on our schedule and we will see what we can do ….

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Opening our doors

As I write this the June sun is streaming in through the window and it seems hard to believe that three months have flown by since I returned from Mysore and we started to work on the renovations at the Space. This is my first blog in quite a few weeks, as we have been putting in the hours to finish the transformation of our little building ready to open our doors.  We have had fantastic help from local contractors and really wonderful support from the local community and it feels great to finally be looking forward to rolling out a yoga mat here instead of wielding a paint brush.

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I have posted up a few photos here so that you can see a snapshot of what we’ve been up to and there are a more on our Facebook page too.  We wanted to breath a little bit of light and life back into this wonderful building which has an amazing energy … we felt it the first time we ever stepped through the front door.  A place like this which has clearly been well loved and cherished and where generations of people have come together as a community for over a century is bound to feel quite special and it re-enforces for us the idea that although it is lovely to put a fresh lick of paint on the walls and give a building lots of care and attention, what really makes a space is the people.

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So we are looking forward to welcoming both familiar faces and hopefully lots of new ones too over the course of the months to come.

We will be opening our doors with a Summer Schedule starting on the 27th July with a timetable of regular classes as well as a few ‘pop-up’ classes, workshops and events throughout the Summer.  In September we will launch a full timetable, including some really lovely teachers who we are very excited to have sharing yoga here with us.  The summer timetable is on our website now  at http://yogaatthespace.com/classes and you can call or email us if you would like to book or would like more information.

We can’t wait!

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