Malvern Wells Yoga

Smile, it's yoga! Yoga classes in the Malvern area.


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One of the best things that ever happened to me

One of the best things that ever happened to me was getting made redundant.

Yes, I know – shock horror – being told that you are going to be made redundant feels like the worst thing in the world at the time. It felt like I had been punched in the stomach. It felt like my heart was being ripped from my chest. I felt let down, like I’d done something wrong. It felt like I was being victimised. One takes it very personally.

But, y’know what? Almost two years later, to the day, I can quite honestly say that I would probably still be sitting there at my desk listening to the gossip and the whining and wishing I was somewhere else. Getting on planes, getting off planes, waking up in a hotel room and thinking you’re in Lyon, but actually you’re in Milan, spending an obscene amount of money at a Clinique counter in Brussels airport because my flight was delayed and I was bored (Heathrow T5, also a favourite). Sitting in meetings wishing I was somewhere else, being so stressed the only thing you can do is cry. Standing for hours in killer heels being nice to people on exhibition booths, again you’re in so much pain you just want to cry.

I remember driving through Zaventem with my colleague one morning and I told him that I was going to be a yoga teacher. This was before I knew I was going to be made redundant. This was what I sat at my desk and dreamt about whilst I was supposed to be devising lead generation strategies. Dunno if he remembers, but I’m sure he didn’t believe me at the time.

Now I’m doing something I love. Yes, I still have a day job, in marketing and it’s just down the road. Don’t get me wrong – I am VERY grateful for this job. The people I work with are tremendous and you couldn’t ask for nicer colleagues. The job is challenging and stressful, but it’s so much more tolerable because at 5pm I can take off my marketing hat and put on my yoga pants.

If I hadn’t been made redundant I would never have been able to afford to train to be a yoga teacher. I never saved anything, I would just fritter it away on designer clothes and killer heels so that I could stand on more exhibition booths knowing that I was one of the best dressed there. Yet one of the first lights at the end of the tunnel upon knowing that I was going to be made redundant, was the fact that I knew with complete clarity that I would be spending some of my redundancy money on yoga teacher training.

This weekend I’ve taught on a retreat for The Clover Mill. I teach there every Monday, but this weekend Julie asked if I would be willing to teach the whole weekend. I was honoured to be asked. To me, it means I’ve come a long way in my teaching that Julie had enough faith in me to let me teach her weekend retreaters. What an experience! I’ve gone from knee-quaking experiences during my teacher training to trying to build up two evening classes per week (sometimes only teaching to one person, or none), to two successful evening classes, plus another one at The Clover Mill, and now this retreat.

I am so grateful to everyone that has stuck with me and supported me over these life-changing two years. I’ve met so many great people, new friends and old have been nothing but encouraging. I am eternally grateful that I was made redundant and I am eternally grateful that I can now share the gift of yoga with the world.


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Things I like

When I was a kid I used to write lists of things I liked.  Even though I’m an adult, I still think writing lists of stuff (as opposed to your work tasks or what you need from the supermarket) can be very cathartic.  A list like this can remind you to practice a little gratitude and it can conjure up happy memories of people or places.  When you’ve got the grumps, you can whip out your list and smile… so why not try it?  Make yourself a cup of tea, maybe get some chocolate, find a nice notebook and a pencil (no, the back of an envelope will not suffice) and write your list of things you like.  I have a couple of rules though:

1)  Don’t include individual people on your list.  So don’t name all 17 of your cats!

2) Don’t put music tracks you like.  This is a whole separate list!  Same goes for films.

3) Do put things you like doing, places you like, situations you like, foods you like, stuff you like reading about…

Here’s mine (in no particular order) and I’ve added in some helpful links!

  • Yoga
  • Birds of prey
  • Pizza (gluten free of course) – I have these babies on repeat order!
  • Cats (and all the cuddling opportunities therein!)
  • Big cats
  • Garden birds
  • Sunsets
  • Kissing in the rain
  • Wearing my pyjamas all day
  • Taking a bath
  • Washing my hair
  • Getting my nails done
  • Beautiful shoes
  • Beautiful views
  • Great conversation
  • Dinner with friends
  • Cooking
  • Cake (making and eating)
  • Watching the entire BBC version of Pride & Prejudice in one go
  • Reading yoga books
  • Reading trashy novels
  • Waking up late (not lounging around in bed, just waking up late)
  • Real genuine belly laughs (mine or anyone else)
  • Knitting
  • Little boxes
  • That smell when you walk into a hippy-type shop like Aquarius in Malvern, or Huckleberry Willow in Chesterfield (is that even still there?  Yup, apparently so!)
  • Hugs
  • Americano – black
  • Peppermint tea (it’s an obsession)
  • Flowers in my garden (the more colour, the better – honeysuckle, hydrangea and roses)
  • Trees (big ones, small ones – it doesn’t matter)
  • Midwinter Stonehenge Strawberry pottery (again, it’s an obsession)
  • Baking bread
  • Geocaching
  • Feeling the warmth of the sun on my face
  • Swimming in the sea
  • Riding my mountain bike
  • Walking on the Malvern Hills
  • The Peak District
  • The Lake District
  • Lyon
  • Playing in Newent Orchestra and feeling just a tiny part of that huge, powerful sound and almost being reduced to tears by it… thinking particularly of the time we played in Gloucester Cathedral
  • The Bran Tub in Malvern.  It’s like Mecca.
  • Coming home
  • Cuddling up in bed when it’s absolutely freezing outside
  • Proper traditional quilts
  • Autumn leaves
  • Beer
  • Growing our own vegetables
  • Bees
  • Getting ready to go out
  • Dancing like a demon
  • Cranking up the music in my car… or house
  • Speaking French
  • Hats

Now I’ve started, I could go on for hours.  I guess it’s a way for my readers to get to know me a bit more… but at the same time I urge you to write a list like this.  It’s fun!  Feel free to share yours.


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Whisperings

I’ve been having some treatment in the form of Cosmic Alignment Technique with my friend Sharon Richards who owns Power Blue Holistics.  Sharon is an amazing alternative and holistic health practitioner.  She has a great way of making you feel relaxed as soon as you walk through the door of her gorgeous little healing room.

Cosmic Alignment Technique is an energy healing system designed to nourish, calm, heal and relax you.  It’s a bit like Reiki, except that it’s not.  To me it seems to be a lot more powerful.  The treatment does a whole lot more than just provide relaxation.  If you want to know more about it, click on the link at the top of the page.

I wasn’t at all skeptical about the treatment, but I never expected it to be so profound either.  For example, I love all things holistic, but I’ve never been into angels.  Never seen one, never felt a presence.  Yet last Thursday, angels were whispering to me during my treatment.  No, I’m not schizo!  I was offered guidance, affirmations and reassurance about my true purpose.  To that end, on Friday I bought a pack of angel oracle cards.  Something told me to.  I did my first reading on Friday night when I came in from work.  More affirmations,  more help being offered.  It was scarily accurate.  The way is being pointed out to me, lit up with fairy lights and candles.  Fooook!!

Wheels have started turning.  Cogs are whirring.  Things are afoot.  Something big is about to happen for me.  Not only can I feel it, but I also know it.  Watch this space!!

Forest Path

This is the way!

(Image from dreamstime)


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One of those days

I’m having one of those days. I wasn’t having one of those days this morning, but now I am and it’s really getting on my nerves.

I knew it. As soon as I stepped on my yoga mat and started to move, my whole body felt tight and tired. It probably didn’t help that I decided to do a Tiffany Cruickshank core flow on YogaGlo when really what I wanted to do was a nice restorative practice. I didn’t listen to my body and instead I told myself that I needed a good core workout. So I just pushed on through… and now I’m exhausted.

I’ve spent the afternoon curled up on the sofa trying to plan my classes for next week. I usually enjoy this, but today it’s been a chore. I also had in mind that I’d make a cake, do some online banking, write a blog post, do my class emailer…. and what have I done? NOTHING. A big, fat NADA.

And even now, even though I’ve accepted that I’m knackered, I still can’t stop beating myself up that I’m this, that and the other (mainly involving the word “lazy”).

So what to do:
1) Accept that I’m tired
2) Prioritise what needs to be done
3) Do what needs to be done
4) Then do something else that makes me happy, not something that I think I should be doing
5) Give myself a break and stop beating myself up

This is what I go on about in my classes – I talk about listening to your body, tuning in, working within your own limits blah, blah…. All very valid points, except that I am not very good at accepting my own advice!

I can’t expect to feel the same everyday. I have to learn to accept that some days my body will let itself be pushed and then pushed a bit more. Other days, it’s just not going to happen.

So, get off your arse, sit bones and RELAX, Kat. Be kind to yourself, Kat. Finish this post, do your banking and spend what’s left of the day doing something for you! Yes, YOU!!!!


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Karma Yoga

Today we’ve been watching birds for the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch. It takes place several times per year here in the UK.

I love birds. We both do. When we moved to our cottage we were overwhelmed by the number of birds who visited our garden. It was pretty wild and overgrown, but we’ve spent the last two years clearing out the rubbish, chopping down some of the more wild aspects and generally trying to create a wildlife haven, not just for birds but for all manner of other animals too. Not in the least, two squirrels who visit regularly (we think they’re a couple and we’re hopeful that we might see some squirrel babies in the spring).

We keep our bird feeders topped up throughout the year and we make sure that our birdbath is full of clean water too. Trying to keep our three cats away is challenging at times, especially in spring, but we manage ok and casualties are minimal.

So anyway, what does this have to do with Karma Yoga?

Yoga is not just about the asanas (postures). There are different aspects or “Paths” of yoga. One of them is Karma Yoga. Karma Yoga is the path of selfless action and/or service. It is nothing whatsoever to do with the karma sutra… (why is it that when you tell people you’re into yoga, they automatically think that it means bendy or kinky sex?)….

When I first began yoga (many moons ago), I wasn’t massively into serving or helping anyone outside the immediate four walls of my house, or my close family. I definitely think/know that through my yoga practice I’ve become more aware and more compassionate towards other lives around me.

To practice Karma Yoga, you need to remove the “I” from it. Whilst you’re at it, also remove the “ought to” and the “got to”. Don’t be arrogant about what you are doing, don’t sit there and polish your halo. This is not Karma Yoga. Karma Yoga is selfless. Do it out of kindness. By all means, do it because you want to… but not out of a sense of duty.

Think about the Karma Yoga you can practice. Maybe you can visit an elderly neighbour or relative. Perhaps you can offer some of your time to the local dog shelter because they always need people to go in and walk the dogs. Think about how you can use your skills for the good of others. If you’re a cook, why not volunteer at the local soup kitchen? Even buying an extra tin at the supermarket and putting it in the food bank, somebody, somewhere will be thankful of your tin. Or maybe just feed the birds in your garden, help them to grow big and strong to protect themselves against the inevitable bad weather to come, and hope that in spring they’ll be able to have birdy babies to form a new generation.

Think about one thing you can do, would be glad to do, that could help make a difference to someone’s life.


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Yoga websites worth looking at

I like yoga websites. Websites about yoga. In the old days (before I became a yoga teacher), I used to like websites about shoes, and handbags. I still do… but I spend more time reading about yoga than I do buying shoes. How times change! And anyway, I already have way too many pairs of shoes.

For this week’s blog post I thought I would share some of my favourite yoga websites. Please don’t think I agree with every single post on these websites. Sometimes they can be a bit controversial… but worth checking out if you want to read more about yoga, maybe deepen your practice, find the best alignment in a pose, learn about pranayama – honestly, the list is endless.

1. Do You Yoga
I’m actually an Ambassador for Do You Yoga. It’s also the home of the 30-day yoga challenge with Erin Motz. Recently they also launched the most successful yoga-based Kickstarter project ever (more about this at some point). Kino McGregor, deeply cool Ashtanga teacher, is also on there sharing her wisdom about poses. A recent favourite post on there has to be Why Savasana is the Hardest Pose… And How to Master It. It’s a light-hearted website, taking a mainly humorous look at yoga.

2. Elephant Journal
I would say that Elephant Journal is more spiritual, more serious than website number 1. It’s not all about yoga either. Quite a lot of it is not about yoga at all. There’s a wealth of information on there from appreciating your husband to this article about productivity. There is definitely something for everyone. It’s worth noting though that you need to sign up if you want to read more than 5 articles per day.

3. Yoga Journal
The Yoga Journal website has everything. A great blog, recipes, practice videos, hints and tips, explanations of postures… If you are ever confused about any aspect of yoga, just visit the Yoga Journal website and it is guaranteed you will find an answer. It has been my goto resource for a long time. Try this useful guide to chakras on the blog. And check out the Pose Finder database.

There are hundreds of websites about yoga, but these three are a good place to start. There is something for everyone on all of these sites. Whether you are a beginner or a seasoned class attendee, take the time to deepen your practice by reading what other people have to say about it, and indulge yourself in the wisdom.

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Yoga documentary – Enlighten Up!

This week I’ve watched a documentary about yoga called Enlighten Up!

Kate Churchill is a filmmaker and yoga practitioner who sets out to prove that yoga can transform anyone.  Her test subject is Nick Rosen, skeptical but well up for a challenge.  Kate and Nick travel extensively, meeting plenty of yoga celebrities and some of the godfathers of modern yoga.  I don’t want to spoil it for you because I believe it’s worth dedicating an hour and fifteen minutes of your time to watch it.  You can watch it here on documentarywire with helpful Spanish subtitles!  Needless to say though that it doesn’t go entirely to plan and Kate’s plans start to unravel as Nick begins to question what yoga is truly about and some uncomfortable feelings bubble up to the surface.

Overall I found the documentary very interesting and it made me think a lot about my own yoga practice.  Yoga is not the miraculous answer to all of life’s questions.  It will not transform you overnight into an enlightened, tofu-eating yoga-lebrity, wafting serenely through life in a cloud of patchouli!

However, a regular and dedicated yoga practice keeps you fit, helps alleviate the symptoms of many illnesses, can help with stress, anxiety and depression, improve your posture etc., just Google it and you’ll find hundreds of articles about it. Here‘s a good article on Yoga Journal.

What about enlightenment and inner peace though?  Do I have to travel to an ashram in India and sit in meditation for 10 hours per day?  It’s unlikely that any of us will ever achieve guru-like grace from a once per week practice.  But, you can cultivate a calmer, more peaceful, less tumultuous approach to your life with a regular yoga practice and I guarantee that a some point you’ll have a revelation or two.  Sometimes hitting you between the eyes like a thunderbolt when you are in a posture and sometimes appearing more subtly the day after or week after in the form of feeling more calm about a situation or person.

The important thing is to remember to listen.  Listen to your body and approach your yoga with reverence, moving in and out of each posture with a joyful curiosity.  No two practices are ever the same, your body and mind are different each time you practice.  Take care of your alignment, trust your breath, respect your body and the sensations within it instead of throwing yourself around your yoga mat and pushing yourself to the very limit of your physical abilities.  Enlightenment comes from within, it’s inside you already.  Stay present, stick at it and you’ll find what you need to find inside yourself.