Featured Graduate: Maria de las Cuevas

Ahead of our charity yoga class on 24th March in aid of MSF, we spoke to YogaLondon graduate Maria about what brought her to yoga, her experience learning with us, the importance of living in the moment and her exciting plans for the future. 

YL: What is your favourite thing about practising yoga?

Maria: It’s the peace that I feel on my mat. The practice brings me harmony, balance and strength to deal with my daily routine.

YL: What brought you to yoga?

Maria: I went to yoga for the first time twelve years ago in Brazil searching for something to relief my stress. I had just finished my Veterinarian degree. I found the work too stressful so I found comfort in yoga practice. Since then I have never stopped practising and two years ago I just dived deep into yoga and decided to become a teacher.  I wanted to pass forward all the knowledge that changed my life to those who need it too. 

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YL: What made you choose a YogaLondon teaching course?

Maria:  I found YogaLondon online and everything suited perfectly to my life, prices, style and location. The format of the courses was very convenient for me because I have a little boy at home, so weekends were when I had the time. When it started I just saw how right my choice was. I am so pleased to have chosen YogaLondon. 

YL: How was transitioning from yoga student to yoga teacher?

Maria: The transition was quite smooth and I did everything in my own time.  As a very shy person I thought it might be a bit difficult to be in front of the room leading a class, but after my first classes I found myself as a teacher. I just love being there for my students being part of their improvement, their journey. 

YL: What was your hardest moment in your journey to become a yoga teacher?

Maria: My hardest moment was during the course when I felt I taught badly. I started doubted my teaching, but the thought of stopping never passed through my mind. I saw my shyness as my challenge and today I feel better and not shy in front of my students.

YL: What advice would you give yourself before you became a yoga teacher?

Maria: Never stop believing in what you are capable of doing. With love and dedication we can do whatever we want. Just have focus and trust in your strength.

YL: What can we find you doing now?

Maria: I have my own classes, it is just the beginning!  As I said, I am doing things slowly and step by step developing my own brand Ser Yogi. I have many plans, I want to do my 500hr training with YogaLondon and children’s yoga in the future… let’s see… living in the present is the best thing that I can do. 

YL: What should people expect when they come to your class?

Maria: My class is a very slow flow. I like to do the transitions in a slow motion, so that we can have time to breath and feel the restorative part of yoga without missing the flow of the style. Students will feel refreshed and ready to take that positive energy from the mat to their lives.

A Yoga Class With The Kids

As part of her yoga and parenting series, Poppy Pickles decided to do a proper kids yoga lesson with her two children. After her daughter’s recent complaint that she didn’t like yoga, because it kept taking her Mummy away from spending time with her, Poppy took a different approach. This is what happened…

poppyYoga3Over the past six years, yoga has taken me on a journey to myself. Going on a yoga teacher training course has accelerated that journey and sometimes the parts of myself I get to see aren’t all that perfect.  But it has given me so much, not least a way of turning my ideas on their head and refreshing body, mind and soul.

The rest of my family unit are not so keen on the yoga though.  My husband is supportive at all times, but it has meant a lot more time on his own with the kids, and the children have had to adjust to me being either busy on my mat at home, or busy on my mat somewhere else.  My mat has a lot to answer for.  And the truth is, that when I pass my teacher training course (whenever that may be) I will be yoga-ing away from them even more.

So, I thought it was about time that I gave the children a proper yoga lesson, so that they could experience it for themselves, and also so that they could see me in my guise as yoga teacher.

Planning The Lesson

I decided to keep it simple, whilst not over-simplifying it.  I had a feeling that they wouldn’t appreciate me making it all babyish, so stuck to a traditional sequence, putting a handstand in there as I feel that this pose gives a great sense of achievement. I planned for an hour long lesson, which was possibly a little over-ambitious, but any less than that doesn’t really give the body and mind time to adjust and progress.

I laid out the room like a proper yoga studio, clearing the furniture in the sitting room and providing them with a mat each and plenty of equipment.  I was determined that this was going to be a proper yoga lesson with them both staying focused and not getting silly.

Getting Started With Kids Yoga 

The lesson started with the crucial decision of which mat to use.  Rosie chose the pink mat, of course, and Daniel had the lime green one. We started with Tadasana, or mountain pose.  I got them to lift their toes and spread them back down. Rosie’s toes spread out like a little starfish, while Daniel’s toes stubbornly stayed  in a little wedge : the first interesting difference in their bodies.

We imagined we were mountains, with a firm base, and then our arms stretched up to the sky. After this stretching up my son collapsed to the floor dramatically. ‘I’m exhausted!’ he protested. This lesson was going to be harder than I imagined…

We moved on to Tree pose. Impressively they both managed to get their feet up high onto the opposite thigh, but their little sapling bodies struggled to balance and they both waved and wobbled like trees in a gale.  I took Daniel to the wall, but determined Rosie stayed on her mat and eventually they both managed to stay upright with their arms stretched up for about a millisecond, before crashing dramatically to the floor.

I decided not to worry about the fact that they were unable to maintain any pose for more than the blink of an eye and decided to keep moving through the poses at a fast pace, letting them hit the poses for a brief moment and then trying them again.  By the third time they were both able to hold the poses for a little longer and were making better shapes.

The funniest pose we tried together was Warrior 3.  We tried it a few times both sides and eventually they managed to go into the pose and hold it without wibbling, wobbling and catapulting themselves across the room in an explosion of giggles.

Keeping Them Going!

poppyYoga2The crucial difference between adults and children is that they don’t pretend to find something interesting.  Adults might lose focus during a class, but they pretend they haven’t because they care about what other people think.  My children don’t have that issue.

As their interest began to wane again after what seemed like an age to them but what was actually about ten minutes I began to put more imagery into the poses, and give each pose more of a story.  For Virabhadrasana 1 I talked about the warrior Virabhadra, summoned into being by an anguished Shiva.  ‘Make your legs strong and firm, shoot your arms up to the sky!’ I instructed, which they duly did with serious faces.

I strategically cut a few poses and it was time for handstand against the wall.  Rosie, who has given this pose a go before after watching me, whizzed up into the pose and hung there like a little pro. Daniel was not so keen and felt a bit discombobulated being upside down, collapsing down and not wanting to try it again. But I didn’t want to leave him feeling that he couldn’t do it – it’s not healthy for him to feel that there’s something Rosie can do that he can’t.

So we tried starting from downward dog and walking his feet up the wall, which he did with ease, and then I stood behind him and he lifted one leg off the wall at a time.  As I was supporting him I was able to give his legs a boost and he could then straighten his arms. Of course Rosie then wanted to try this method too. He came down with a sense of pride that he could do something he hadn’t initially thought he could do. (Phew).

The End Of The Lesson

Incredibly, the lesson actually lasted a whole hour.  The time seemed to go by extremely fast as I was constantly ‘walking the tightrope of their energy and attention levels’ as my husband put it.

By the time we got to the end of the lesson the children had been properly exercised.  They wanted to skip Savasana, but I told them it was the most important pose of all, and the one pose they mustn’t skip.

They lay down side by side and I covered their eyes and bodies. I checked that they were central on the mat, and then adjusted their featherweight shoulderblades, smoothing them down their backs. ‘Keep doing that Mummy!’ said Rosie happily.

Then as the lights went out and I began to go through the body, telling them to relax each part, a mini miracle occurred.  They both went completely still, not a flicker of movement.  Peace.

Feedback

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After the lesson I asked the children for some feedback on their first ever yoga lesson.  Daniel’s feedback was succinct  – ‘It was good’.  I asked him what his favourite pose was and without hesitation he said ‘Savasana’, because it was ‘very relaxing’, and ‘like an organised snuggle’.  His second favourite pose was ‘Warrior 1 as I felt it came naturally to me’.

Rosie did enjoy it but she admitted, ‘I  found it quite hard’.  Her favourite pose was also Savasana, because she found it ‘kind of quiet’ and, she said, ‘because it doesn’t hurt – it’s very still and peaceful and you made me feel heavy with your words.’

Her second favourite pose was handstand, because, ‘ it was so amazing to be upside down and looking at the world from the other side.’

What I Learnt From My Children

Just because bodies are little it doesn’t mean they’re necessarily bendy and flexible.  My daughter found it very hard due to her naturally tight hamstrings so I had to take that into account while not discouraging her.

Praise is transformative for children. When I pointed out that Daniel was doing a good Warrior 1 pose he perked up and listened much better when I corrected him later on.

Children need rest and relaxation as much as adults. Their response to Savasana surprised me as I didn’t think they’d be able to be as still or as quiet.

Your own children are your best critics. They will tell you how things are without any sugar coating.

Featured Graduate: Colette

Ahead of our next YogaLondon Charity Class , we spoke to Colette, who will be leading the session. Colette’s yoga journey has taken her from being part of the Cirque Du Soleil, traveling the world, to now teaching yoga alongside being a mum. Read on for more! 

YogaLondon: What is your favourite thing about practising yoga?

Colette:  I love mostly all parts of practicing yoga. I particularly like working on my flexibility, going deeper into postures and finding space within my body and mind.  Screen Shot 2017-02-20 at 17.14.06

YL: What brought you to yoga? 

Colette:  As a former Cirque Du Soleil Principle Aerialist, I have been fortunate enough to travel much of the world performing at numerous shows and events.  Along the way I practiced yoga on and off, which has always helped to keep me grounded and balanced.  As well as being an aerialist, I am embarking on a new journey in my life as a yoga teacher, where I take great pleasure in sharing with others the many techniques and forms of the body that have been taught to me over the years.

YL: What made you choose a YogaLondon teacher training?

Colette: After a lot of researching, I did a Try Us evening taster class with YogaLondon which I really enjoyed and confirmed to me that YogaLondon teacher training was the one for me.  It felt right and I could fit it into my schedule alongside being a mummy and working.

YL: How was transitioning from yoga student to yoga teacher?

Colette:  Thankfully everything seemed to all fall in place naturally for me as I began teaching half way through the course.

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YL: What was the hardest moment in your journey to become a yoga teacher? 

Colette: I found the Sanskrit language hard to absorb.  One of my favourite memories was on the course during teaching practice when I found my voice when giving verbal adjustments and instructions, it felt so good and I was proud of myself.

YL: What advice would you give yourself before you became a yoga teacher?

Colette: To set aside enough time for yoga homework.

YL: What can we find you doing now? 

Colette: One step at a time, I go with the flow. I run a weekly class within a large corporate building within the City of London. Hopefully more coming soon!

YL: What should people expect when they come to your class?

Colette: Everyone is welcome from complete beginners to experienced yogis. Beginners that come to my classes can expect me to be patient and experienced yogis can expect to be stretched to the limits!

I hope to bring more than just a handstand, bringing the mind body and soul together and helping people to be the best that they can be both physically and mentally.

Foods To Eat For Heart Health

Once thought as the seat of emotions and intelligence, the heart has always been a recurring topic of discussion in the search for a better understanding of the body. Here nutritionist and yogi Elisa Pineda looks at the foods we can eat for maximum heart health. 

Image Credit: Volkon Olmez via Unsplash.
Image Credit: Volkon Olmez via Unsplash.

We now know that alongside the heart’s real function of pumping blood around the body also sits the absorption of nutrients and oxygen assimilation, both of which are essential for life. 

These vital functions can be disrupted because of your lifestyle choices. Today, heart disease is the leading cause of death around the world. Every year, 17.3 million people die as a result. It is expected that by 2030, 23.6 million people will die because of it. However, heart disease is preventable!

One of the main factors that can lead to heart disease (as well as tobacco use, being sedentary, and a high intake of alcohol) is an unbalanced diet. What you eat can make a difference in the prevention of heart disease and the maintenance of your heart health.

How To Eat For Heart Health

1. Reduce Your Salt Intake:

One of the greatest threats to your heart health is processed food and its high sodium content.  According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) your intake of sodium should be less than 2g a-day of sodium, or what is equivalent to 5g of salt a day for adults.

Salt can be hidden in most processed, packaged foods and even every day foods (see below). Whilst salt is good for preserving food and boosting its flavour (even of sweets and desserts), it can be highly addictive.  

However, just as your tongue can become easily accustomed to salty foods, a gradual decrease in the salt you consume can help you improve your savouring and enjoyment and give your health a boost.

Be mindful of which foods you need to watch out for due to their high salt content:

  • A store-bought veggie burger can contain 398 milligrams of sodium; around 20% of your daily allowance (DA) of salt already in one go.
  • A ½-cup serving of tomato sauce contains around 642 milligrams of sodium, 30% of your daily allowance.
  • 2 Tbsp of your salad dressing can contain more sodium than in an entire bag of crisps: 260 mg per serving, 13 % of your DA.
  • Pitta bread contains a heavy dose of sodium: 284 milligrams in just one piece (14% DA).
  • Cottage cheese contains 270 milligrams of sodium, more than 255 milligrams of sodium, which is the amount you’ll find in a one, ½-ounce packet of crisps (13% DA).

2. Trans Fat

Trans-fat can be found in animal sources and in partial hydrogenation of unsaturated vegetable oils, which are present in many processed foods. Including trans-fat in your diet can increase your bad cholesterol whilst too much of it can also lower your good cholesterol. What’s more, scientific studies such as this one by the World Heart Federation have shown that trans fat can increase the risk of heart disease. 

3. Dental Health Also Matters For Your Heart

A diet rich in meat and sugars can lead to the accumulation of bacteria in your mouth or dental plaque. Studies have suggested that lack of healthy dental habits could lead to the migration of oral bacteria into the bloodstream which could injure major organs, therefore increasing the risk of heart disease. To avoid this, it’s as simple as washing your teeth after every meal.

Eat More Of These Foods To Protect Your Heart:

Whole grains

Image Credit: Haaijk via Flickr.
Image Credit: Haaijk via Flickr.

Previous studies have indicated that whole-grain intake can protect you from heart disease, thanks to whole grains being so rich in fibre. There are two types of fibre: soluble and insoluble.

Most foods rich in fibre contain some of both. Fibre does more than take care of your digestion; it can also improve your heart’s health, by reducing your brad cholesterol.  Science suggests that fibre can bind to cholesterol in the digestive system, taking it out off your body’s system by binding with its particles and inhibiting its absorption into your digestive system.  

Good fats

Fatty fish and fish oils are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids. Some nuts and seeds as well as plant oils like canola, flaxseed and walnuts also contain omega-3. Clinical trials suggest that people at risk of heart disease can benefit from including foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids into their diets.

Colours

The colour in each fruit and vegetable represents different type of micronutrients that can be heart-saving. Loaded with antioxidants including phytochemicals (plant compounds that have protective or disease preventative qualities), flavonoids, fibre and potassium, fruits and vegetables are an indispensable aid in the fight against heart disease. 

According to the WHO, a daily intake of at least 400g of fruit and vegetables is recommended. Just as a note of caution if you take statins – which are cholesterol-lowering drugs – be aware that grapefruit products may interfere with the drug’s action.

Image Credit: Jamie Street via Unsplash.
Image Credit: Jamie Street via Unsplash.

A balanced, colourful and diverse diet is one of the best ways you can protect yourself from heart disease. Avoid foods rich in salt and balance them out or even replace them with foods rich in potassium like fruits and vegetables. Instead of going for processed, packaged foods go for fresh, less processed options, such as nuts and seeds rich in omega-3. Through a hearty and balanced diet you can go a long way along the path of heart disease prevention.

Featured Graduate: Susy Galante

After a booked-out charity yoga class at the beginning of the month, we’re very excited to be hosting our second one! Led by YogaLondon graduate Susy Galante, we’ll be donating all proceeds to the wonderful Medicins Sans Frontieres.  Read on to find out more on Susy’s yoga teaching journey…

YogaLondon (YL): What brought you to yoga?

Screen Shot 2017-02-08 at 14.02.23Susy Galente: My dad had been practising yoga for almost ten years when I stepped into my first yoga class. I was 27 and I asked him to go with me for the taster class. After that I decided to start the yoga journey and…I never stopped!

After ten years myself, my teacher suggested that I think about starting a yoga teacher training. I had already planned to move to London and I thought it was the perfect moment to leave everything behind and turn the page.

I was working in a company as an executive assistant when I applied for the yoga teacher training with Yoga London.  I perfectly remember the day they said ‘YES’! My heart was full of joy, it was the best gift I could give to myself.  

YL: What made you choose a YogaLondon teacher training? 

The timing, schedule, subjects and location were so perfect. The team that contacted me were so nice, supportive and loving. I had the feeling that it was a very good school and after my training I can say that I was right!

YL: How was transitioning from yoga student to yoga teacher?

Well, it’s something that I realised along the way. At the beginning I thought I wouldn’t be able to teach yoga in another language. I am Italian and I was really concerned about learning and teaching yoga in English. Now I can say that teaching yoga has settled inside of me day by day.

One day I realised I could do it with no problems!

Screen Shot 2017-02-08 at 14.03.45YL: What was the hardest moment in your yoga teaching journey?

The hardest moment was at the beginning. I had a lot of ups and downs. It’s a very emotional journey. It digs into the most intimate layers of yourself, through yourself and transforms you. The transition is always exciting but also hard to deal with even if you know it will have a happy ending.

The best memory is when I realised that I wanted to be a yoga teacher, that I was on the right path. I wrote a Post-It and put it on a wall in my house; it says: “I will bring yoga into others’ hearts”. And now I am doing it!

YL: What advice would you give yourself before you became a yoga teacher?

Be authentic and gentle with yourself: yoga is a personal journey.

Be humble with others: teaching yoga is a privilege and I will honour it.

YL: What can we find you doing now? 

My dream is to have my own studio, one day. I have few projects here in London, private and group classes but also professional partnership. I believe in the power of connections!

I always say: a long journey starts from the very first step.

YL: What should people expect when they come to your class?

I have studied Hatha and Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga and created my unique style. You will learn the Primary Series from Ashtanga, moving into a more meditative and introspective practice from Hatha.

When I decided to attend the Yoga Teacher Training my wish was to bring yoga into others’ hearts. I wanted to touch the soul and the inner parts of  others; to allow them to discover the beauty of themselves: that’s what I would like to bring to people coming to my class.

Thanks Susy, we can’t wait!