The Journey to Yoga by Anthony Middleton

The Journey to Yoga by Anthony Middleton.

Since aged 8, my entire life has been in some way connected to exploring, understanding, training and controlling the body, both other people’s and my own. Beginning in the gloriously glittery, lycra-clad yet incredibly demanding and strenuous life of an international acrobatic gymnast, I had learnt a great sense on control to generate muscular force and power, whilst also supporting and caring for the actions of my acrobatic partner-in-sequins, as I would throw her into the sky, hopefully to catch her safely and ‘wow’ the judging panel from the various countries who had become my adversaries.

The gifts of physical prowess and control over fear were most valuable as I made the transition from sport into art, training and working as a professional dance performer and choreographic artist. Since 2009, I was rewarded for my efforts in training, having the pleasure to work with some truly inspiring artists in the UK and overseas, yet interestingly the competitive aspect, deeply rooted in me from those gymnastic years, was lurking in my subconscious mind, which in honesty is also quite a beneficial tool in such a complex industry.

Whilst living in London, at this point exploring my own creative language and making dance pieces for my developing company ‘theMiddletonCorpus’, my future-wife, the truly divine Isabel Slingerland, introduced me to Yoga, her new passion.

My initial resistance to the idea, driven by the surreal stigma that still haunts the Yoga practice for many men in the world, I was reluctant to head to the studio, to waft my arms around, chanting Indian mantra, with a crowd of ladies. I’m sure this isn’t so unfamiliar for many out there, that find it easy to pass a judgement on something they know little about.

How soon this changed.

I remember taking my first breaths, sat on my mat, truly hearing my breath, free of design or falsity that one employs when dancing. I could feel how my breath was actually very weak, unstable and wasn’t in any way supporting my body in its actions. As we begin to pass through our various Asana, bending forwards to touch the toes, I was so thrilled that I could. It was of course still a working process, there was still those competitive elements to the practice, I wanted to do the hardest postures, be the deepest in the stretch, be the longest in the headstand. But as I continued to practice, particularly heading to some truly inspiring teachers in various studios across the capital, I was introduced to more of the philosophical aspects of the practice. I came to understand that Yoga isn’t the posture, it’s in the entirety of my existence both on and off the mat; the controlling of my breathing (Pranayama), my choice to arrive at the studio (Tapas – discipline/commitment), my choice to devote that practice to someone else (Ishwara Pranidhana – devoting practice to another), my decision to listen to what my body asked for (Swadhyaya- study of the Self in all its form). This understanding has gradually enabled me to calm the competitive aspect of my practice, to realise that Yoga isn’t an achievement, its a constant flowing process of change, and that Yoga teaches us to simply observe, be conscious of our body and mind and to enjoy every moment of this changing existence (Santosha – contentment).

But then there came the even greater revelation, that every other person in the studio was ‘present’, all aiming for the same thing, all sharing their practice with me, sharing their time with me, sharing their silence, their mind and body training and cleansing with me. I became aware that Yoga isn’t even something ‘for me’, it’s ‘for us all’.

I completed my 200hr teacher training at the Sivananda Ashram in the Bahamas, in 2016, receiving a wonderful introduction to the practice of Hatha Yoga and initiated into my spiritual name of ‘Ganesha’ (the remover of obstacles) by the divine Swarmi Swaroopananda. My choice to follow this particular teaching and training, was to delve deeper into the philosophy of Yoga, which is particularly in depth with the Sivananda lineage. Following my training, I have attended workshops and masterclasses with a wide range of practitioners from various lineages and approaches to both philosophy and Asana (postural practice), most recently with Ana Forrest (Forrest Yoga), Simon Borg-Olivier (Yoga Synergy) and Jules Febre (Jivamukti Yoga), who have truly inspired my practice and lit a burning fire and will to share the wonder of Yoga practice with all those in our local community and beyond.

I’m thrilled to be joining the Yoga Kula team, teaching various Pop-up classes and teaching the Sunday afternoon Hatha Yoga class (3:30pm-4:45pm). In this class, I will endeavour to offer an opportunity for every practitioner, no matter what your level of experience, an opportunity to explore and delve deeper in to the process of connecting, observing and listening to the physical body, cultivate positive and uplifting energy and a greater connection to all those that share that experience with you. 

I hope to see you on the mat soon,

Namaste,

Anthony

(Ganesha)


Cool. Calm. Connected.

Cool, calm, connected; oh, what a feeling! However we all know it’s not so easy to keep this peace throughout our daily life.

Constant stimulation, comparison and expectations in line with supposedly desirable ‘achievements’ can all contribute to stress and anxiety. Often our surface emotions don’t even recognise the underlying stress due to the fast pace of our lives. And this is where anxiety can kick in.

I have learnt over the past few years how incredibly important it is to soothe ourselves before reaching this point. When we provide ourselves with a safe space to feel and be, we calm our whole system.

How do we create a safe space? Ritual, repetition and relaxation. If we are already on a thinking rollercoaster it’s no good being told to sit in meditation for half an hour, we need to allow the mind and body to communicate, therefore they must be travelling at the same speed. We can bring them into sync with one another by gently slowing the mind bit by bit.

Steady, gentle movements, combining the breath and body provides a focus for the mind and allows our spiralling thoughts to become centred. We can indulge in the simple pleasure of moving slowing, a method we so often neglect these days.

From here we can begin to slow down further by taking restorative postures. Only when we feel safe can we truly let go, so we take measures to find security, such as props to hold and protect the body, providing the opportunity for the mind to follow suit. We can still utilise methods of focus, my favourite being pranayama: breath control to align the breath and mind.

These are two wonderful approaches that you can practice at home. The real benefits come when you do this on a regular basis, not because you have to but because you recognise just how much it nourishes you and allows you to be the best version of yourself.

In my workshops we will work steadily through both of these practices, finding out exactly what works to align each unique individual and from there we will move into a yoga nidra (‘yogic sleep’). The powers of yoga nidra are almighty and will allow your potentially fragmented mind to be more present than ever.

I’d love you to join me on March 3rd for my Calm. Cool. Connected. workshop and enjoy the benefits of this special practice of yoga that is so close to my heart.

Namaste

Ella Young

To Book Ella’s Calm. Cool. Connected. workshop click the button below.

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Alignment // What Alignment? by Julia Knight

Alignment // What Alignment?


In my twenties long before any yoga studios existed in Leeds I went to a twice weekly yoga class in a church hall. This was an Iyengar class, which 9 years of joyful alignment practice later, stopped as my teacher went on to other things…. I was bereft!
Then I found Ashtanga which brought its joys with the beauty of breath and movement linked together, it felt like I had returned home to my school years as a competitive swimmer—the mix of movement and breath and fluid focus.

Beginners Yoga Class

Taking cues from both of the practices above, I recently started teaching an Alignment Yoga class at Yoga Kula on a Thursday lunchtime, sometimes exploring moving into posture with the wave, feedback and nature of the breath, other times mindfully focusing on anatomy cues, sometimes working with gravity and spirals in the body. All of these have commonalities—listening inwards and acknowledging differences in our bodies, one size does not fit all, and mindfully enquiring through feedback and sensation is what alignment yoga is all about. 
This class suits people who would like to slow down in their postures and mindfully connect with themselves finding a balance of strength and flexibility in a class which is mainly focused around standing postures with a good savasana at the end.


Move deeper into yourself and your practice by joining us on retreat. Next getaway is to the volcanic island of Furteventura.


Rise and Shine

Rise and Shine: two perspectives on morning yoga.


A Student’s Perspective by Beliz Namli

Some people look at me like I’m a crazy person when I tell them that I go to a yoga studio for a 7am class. ‘Why?’ is the resounding question that gets thrown at me.

Well, it’s quite simple! It is no secret that yoga makes people feel good. And I know that no matter how I feel before a class I always feel better afterwards, more than better in fact. It’s like having a double espresso with 3 sugars to get you going before facing the day! So, my question to people is why would you want to wait until AFTER work to get that boost? To release any anxieties or stress?

Some say that making your bed every morning sets you up for success. But, for me, easing into my day with a guided yoga class is the answer (my bed most definitely remains un-maid because, well… priorities!). Its like a super long bed stretch, a reset button, a gentle persuasion for your body and mind that there is stuff to do and that you are ready to do it!

I have never been able to motivate myself to do a self-led practice on a morning. It is too easy to convince yourself that sleeping a little bit longer is going to be way more beneficial than getting on your mat. But if I have a class booked in, I know I will get up and go. And I never ever regret it. Though Kula is always a welcoming space, there is something so peaceful about being there before anyone else.

Allowing someone to guide you into your day and to achieve so much, all before having a sip of the freshly brewed tea that is always waiting for you after class, is simply rewarding. So, if you have never tried a morning class, maybe give it a go. Even those of us who don’t think we are morning people may be pleasantly surprised by how we feel afterwards. I have never been lying there in savasana thinking ‘oh, I really wish I didn’t come this morning.’ Though sometimes I may be thinking about what’s for breakfast!

A Teacher’s Perspective by Orla Jackson.

For me the benefits of morning yoga are massive—it brings alertness to the mind, increases the range of movement in the body, releases stiffness that develops during sleep and sun salutations work particularly well at warming the body and making it more supple.

Orla is currently teaching our Wake-up Haha class on Friday morning, tomorrow is her final class. Our other morning class is Yang & Yin on Wednesday mornings at 8am. Click the link below to book either of these classes.


Move deeper into yourself and your practice by joining us on retreat. Next getaway is to the volcanic island of Furteventura.


Living Amongst Yogis

Part 3 of Kula’s Indian Adventure—Living amongst yogis


This year Yoga Kula took a group of our most adventurous Kulis up to the Indian Himalayas to give them a taste of what yoga is really all about.

I think one of the most powerful aspects of retreating to a place like the Himalayas is the way it deepens your personal yoga practice and sheds light on the puzzle that life can often become. Surrounded by the peace and natural beauty of the mountains, in the very place where yogi’s have travelled to for thousands of years, can be an enlightening experience.

On this retreat to Dunagiri we were lucky enough to spend our time with a local yogi called Bat-Koti-Ji, who wandered the mountains for several years before settling at Dunagiri two years ago. As a wandering yogi Bat-Koti learnt what to eat by observing monkeys, used yogic techniques such as child’s pose and fire breathing to survive the cold winters, and he spent his time walking the mountains bare foot whilst tending ritual fires he had lit.

Bat-Koti-Ji chose this simple way of life so that the attachment to worldly possessions could not distract him. For years he lived without social interaction and in doing so overcame many obstacles. One of the most inspiring stories that Bat-Koti told our group was that he was once meditating in his cave and opened his eyes to find a large leopard sitting next to him, at this point, rather than giving into his natural reaction to panic, he chose to stay calm and not react. He then closed his eyes and continued meditating not losing his inner balance, and when he opened his eyes again, several hours later, the leopard was gone.

We all learned so much from Bat-Koti-Ji, who has dedicated his life to achieving a yogic state of mind, he inspired us all to continue with our own practice, to not react when we lose our balance in class, and life, and to face the challenges that come with calm, inner wisdom and poise.

A x.



Move deeper into yourself and your practice by joining us on retreat. Our next getaway is to the volcanic island of Fuerteventura.


On Retreat: Yoga and Hygge Luxury Escape

On Retreat: Yoga and Hygge Luxury Escape.


The Yoga Kula team have just returned from a lovely winter holiday in the Ribble valley. We enjoyed a hygge lifestyle with lots of yoga, meditation and time for rest.

Students arrived on Thursday night and were welcomed with freshly baked biscuits, warming drinks and goody bags which included sweaty betty vouchers! Once settled in Angela chatted through what was planned during the weekend and the hygge manifesto, with each day being inspired by a different concept from the manifest, such as—comfort, presence, togetherness and gratitude.

Students arrived on Thursday night and were welcomed with freshly baked biscuits...



Three nights away was perfect as it really gave us time to settle in and deeply relax. Angela started the day off with a dynamic yet gentle practice to wake up the body and mind. Lara took the group even deeper into themselves in the afternoons with Hypno Yoga Nidra, Restorative Yoga, Gentle Hatha and Somatic Yoga.

The evenings were the perfect time to enjoy and savour our Scandinavian style menu prepared by our retreat chef Julie Nutchey of Rocket Catering. After dinner we enjoyed evening yoga sessions and one evening we held a sacred cacao ceremony to open our hearts and enjoy warming and healthy cacao.


On our last evening we enjoyed spiced warm wine and stories around the fire pit.


#seeyouonthemat
#kulahygge
#atonicformodernlife

On our last evening we enjoyed spiced warm wine and stories around the fire pit. For those who had not yet experienced the outdoor hot tub and sauna it was the perfect time to relax whilst soothing body and mind, warmed by the fire, chatting and relaxing with friends.

On our final morning we woke up to a soothing flowing yoga session followed by a green smoothie boost. We packed up and headed out to take a look around the charming scandanavian style local shops and ended our hygge retreat with a delicious brunch in Studd Gardens Café which is full of plants and vintage collectables.

Many of the group arrived as strangers and left as firm friends. This is what is so amazing about retreats – once we begin to relax fully we begin to connect and this after all if what yoga is all about.



Introducing Naama Zusman


Naama Zusman will begin teaching ashtanga yoga on Saturday mornings at Kula. Below we talk to her about all things yoga.


How did you get into yoga?

I’ve been practicing yoga since 2004, when I joined my very first hatha yoga class.

When did yoga become a priority?

A few years after my first class I discovered the practice of ashtanga yoga and I was immediately hooked. It didn’t take long before I became fully devoted to the traditional ashtanga method and it became a way of life.

Where did you study to become a yoga teacher?

I completed my Yoga Alliance Intensive Training with Kino MacGregor and Tim Feldman at the Miami Life Centre in 2014 and have been teaching ever since.

Who’s your biggest inspiration?

My grandmother! She became a vegan in the 70’s and she’s such a warrior. She passed down a lot of knowledge about healthy living that came from my great grandfather—who was a raw vegan naturopath.

What’s your favourite healthy snack?

Avocado.

What’s your favourite yoga pose?

Any pose that gets me out of my comfort zone and stretches my limiting beliefs.

If you could study with any yogi, past or present, who would it be?

Sri K. Pattabhi Jois.

Mysore or Bihar?

Mysore–I first travelled to Mysore in 2016 to practice ashtanga under the guidance of R.Sharath Jois, and returned this year to carry on my practice with Sharath.


Fuerteventura: Yoga, and So Much More

Where do I even begin when trying to convey what a wonderful trip this was? I didn’t even know that Fuerteventura existed before Yoga Kula posted this retreat onto their website, but now I will never ever forget it, and I am just waiting for an opportunity to get myself back out there!

Let’s start with the Villa. It is a modern, minimalist, heaven. Think meditation gardens, think lava rock walls, think mountain views and beautiful sunsets. Not at all what I expected. We had a gorgeous pool, multiple chill-out spaces and all our yoga was outside—an amazing luxury for us Brits!

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But forget the accommodation and the yoga for a second, because this trip was so much more than that. Angela and the team couldn’t have planned a better experience for all of us. We had the opportunity to go on a sunset boat trip, surfing, paddle boarding, eating out, volcano walks and sunrise meditations, visits to the local market and town, beach hang outs and ice-cream, Clare Kerrigan even put on a night-time Nidra for us under the starry sky (with our pillows and duvets!!). It felt more like a luxury summer camp for adults, but with more freedom and lots of Honey Rum (possibly the best reason to get yourself over to Fuerteventura).

Being immersed in the beautiful practice of yoga, as well as wonderful people, food and experiences made for one of the best holidays I have ever been on – and that is what I see it as, a holiday. To call it a yoga retreat almost does it an injustice, though the yoga was obviously top notch (I wouldn’t expect anything less from any of the teachers here at Kula). No one thing was left to chance; Angela made sure we had Pukka Tea a-plenty, snacks galore and so many activities to choose from that it has set a high standard in what I expect a retreat to be – you could say she spoils her yogis and yoginis!

I know I will be on the look-out for the next time I can make this trip, I get a small pang of jealousy whenever I hear the next group talking about heading out there again! But to be honest, a blog post cannot put across the feeling of that trip. It was so full of laughter, good people and wonderful memories that you would have to experience it for yourself to truly understand the magic of Fuerteventura.

Here’s to next time…

Beliz x.


Introducing Sian Grayson

Sian Grayson recently started teaching Postnatal Yoga on Mondays at 11:30am, here we find out a little bit more about Sian.

How did you get into yoga?

I discovered yoga as a teenager, while suffering from M.E which left me unable to do much at all let alone any exercise! I found yoga and meditation totally restorative and it helped me recover and manage life’s challenges in a positive way.

What forms of yoga have you studied?

I’ve studied many different forms of yoga including hatha, vinyasa flow, jivamutki and ashtanga. The more I practiced the more I was able to do and this inspired me to train as a teacher to help others reap the many benefits that yoga can give.

You’ve just started teaching postnatal yoga on Monday mornings, what do children bring to your practice?

Now that I’m on the crazy journey that is being a parent of two boys, it means that I like to focus on being strong and fitting in as much practice as I can around the busy job of parenting— this usually involves being on my mat with the kids climbing all over me and the dog trying to steal my spot.

What do you aim to pass onto new mothers in your class?

I help new mamas regain their strength and heal themselves while being able to include their babies. I am far from Instagram ready and love to provide a comfortable and fun environment for my students to thrive, if my class hasn’t involved some laughter then its been a rubbish one.

What else can you tell us about your postnatal class?

So my class has a basic formula of being all about the mums. I try to get as much actual yoga in as I can but focus the poses on the usual gripes that come with being a mother—neck and shoulders from carrying and feeding their babies, as well as strengthening the core and the whole body. I also include pelvic floor exercises and special exercises specifically for diastasis recti (split abdominal muscles).
After giving birth you feel like a fucking tiger warrior but then quickly start to feel broken and tired, so I try to get the mamas to work slowly back to that tiger feeling.


Yoga and Hygge Luxury Escape—what to look forward to

Hygge (pronounced hue-guh) is a Danish word used when acknowledging a feeling or moment, whether ordinary or extraordinary, as cosy, charming or special.

Hygge is all about atmosphere, presence, pleasure, equality, gratitude, harmony, comfort, truce, togetherness and shelter. Which are all qualities that are already found in yoga and fit perfectly within the setting of a yoga retreat.

On Thursday 16th November we set off for our three day Yoga and Hygge Luxury Escape, and with only one double room left (could you be the lucky yogi, couple or friends joining us on this luxury escape?), we wanted to let you know what we will be getting up to during our time away.

Thursday: Students arrive and Angela and Lara will be on hand to show everyone to their atmospheric rooms — think fresh flowers and Scandinavian style wood burners — or to one of our hygge style sleep nests to catch some zzz’s. There will be freshly baked snacks and warming drinks served on arrival. Dinner will be a warming, tasty veggie meal with an emphasis on Scandinavian flavours. We will wrap up the first evening with a candle lit Hygge inspired Yoga Nidra with NEOM products to prepare you for a good nights sleep.

Friday morning: Soothing Flow class followed by breakfast and some time to yourself to explore the surrounding area — perhaps one of our recommended walks? — treat yourself to a sauna, use the outdoor hot tub (yoga kula are on hand to supply you with face packs and scrubs to sooth and nourish winter skin) or simply relax in your room or in one of hygge style sleep nests. Later on there’ll be Restorative Yoga and the chance for a warm oil massage or Mizen therapy (when pre-booked). Dinner on Friday evening will be followed by chatting, yogic stories and kirtan around the fire pit with warm wine, hot chocolate and cosy blankets — hygge style.

Saturday morning: a Dynamic Hatha and Hygge Yin class will be followed by breakfast and some time to yourself for walks, one on one yoga classes, therapies (please pre-book both of these in advance) or even a game of tennis. Saturday afternoon will consist of lunch and Somatic Yoga. In the evening we’ll sit down for a gorgeous vegetarian dinner with organic wine and local cheeses before we end the evening with a cacao ceremony, meditation and deep relaxation.

We’ll begin Sunday with a cosy Hatha Yoga class followed by a green smoothie boost. There will then be time to mindfully pack and say our goodbyes before we check out late on Sunday morning. For anyone who wants to prolong the escape we’ll be heading to the stylish Stydd Garden Centre, Ribchester for an early lunch before heading home feeling refreshed.

We are incredibly excited about our first luxury escape, it’s going to be a great experience for all of us to take deep rest, self inquiry and spend time with like minded people. At Kula we love to create, innovate and delight, and we hope you enjoy this weekend!

Hurry the final room won’t be available for long!