So I recently completed the Yoga Manchester 200 hour teacher training program and taught my first class for Yoga Manchester. I was pretty chuffed about it and Yogi in Chief Matt Ryan asked me to write another blog about my experiences as a student, a feel good story of coming full circle. I wasn’t quite sure what to say. It could be a book at the end of the day. So I will try not to bore you to tears with my life story but try to summarize my Yoga Manchester journey, in the hope it might inspire some other people, either to come to a class or maybe consider becoming a teacher. Anyway, where to begin… I guess I can start at my first ever yoga class. Yoga for sports at Cavendish Primary School with Matt Ryan, way back when, around 2009. A work mate was a runner and convinced me to come along. I was suffering from knee pain from running and a physiotherapist had also suggested I try some yoga. Being a 6ft tall hairy dude who couldn’t touch his toes, yoga sounded like a kind of scary prospect. The class really wasn’t what I expected. No music. No incense. No whale sounds. Just a little school cafeteria that smelled faintly of school dinners. The class was mostly men and I remember a picture of Ryan Giggs on the flyer. I think yoga was and still is perceived as quite a girly thing to do, for bendy women on beaches and so on. But at the time Ryan Giggs and Andy Murray were popularizing it with blokes and sporty types. It was really cool to come to such an accessible class that showed how anyone can do it. Even stiff beardy blokes like me. I especially enjoyed Matt’s down to earth, no nonsense approach and great sense of humour. He is a proper manc, a normal guy, but had a wisdom about him too. He was very approachable. Even back then he was someone I respected and looked up to. Looking back on it he is still a role model and inspiration for my current path in life. I have a lot to thank him for (so cheers, Matt. Having me write these awkward blogs for you, we are square now yeah?). I used the yoga for sports to supplement my other training for a while. I was into running , weight-lifting and swimming. I found that the Yoga for Sports sequence was really helpful for rehabilitating injuries and building strength and flexibility. As well as a whole body awareness. It was also really fun and deceptively challenging. After a couple of months Matt came to me after class with a bit of paper and said “next step, Bazza!”. It was a flier for an Ashtanga yoga full vinyasa primary series led class that Sunday. People who practice Ashtanga are probably smiling to themselves at the idea of a relative newbie wandering into a full vinyasa class. I had no idea what I was in for. But I was enjoying the yoga and keen to explore it more. The venue was a place called Didsbury Village Hall. It doesn’t exist anymore but it was basically a converted extension behind a house on Palatine Road. It was all wooden inside with big windows, mirrors and a Buddha statue. It definitely looked more legit than the school cafeteria I was used to. The class itself was insane! I remember having to sit loads of it out. Mostly watching and muddling along. I was out of my depth. I was in awe of all the people, men and women, hopping and jumping. Flowing and breathing. Sweat dripping from everyone and the sun beating down through the windows. It was like poetry in motion and there was just something magical about it. It also looked really cool! I had to know more about this mystical Ashtanga. It was very impressive and I wanted to get good and learn the whole thing. I was bitten by the yoga bug that day. Well and truly. I had realised that I only had my toe in the water until then. I had been in the deep-end that day and I liked it. I started going to Matt’s early morning Mysore style classes. This involved one week every month I would get up at 5am and go to St Clement's Church in Chorlton, to muddle my way through my Ashtanga Practice (wearily) with others. The idea is that everyone progresses at their own pace and learns the postures one at a time. Everyone does their practice and Matt walks around giving adjustments and teaching new postures. It was very intense sometimes but a really nice environment. Kind of like a weird cult (in a good way). It is like a mixture between a yoga class and a workshop. With freedom to explore and practice on your own but with the benefit of more one-to-one attention from the teacher than you would get in a regular class. It was fun times and a great way to develop a self practice, allowing you to learn the sequence and do yoga at home. At first I was drawn by the physicality of the practice as an exercise, and method of recovering from injury. Eventually it became something more than just a way to get fit and look cool doing it (or a bizarre reason to get up at 5am with other weirdos). I started to appreciate the psychological and philosophical aspects of yoga, and the difference they make to managing anxiety and depression. Yoga totally changed my life and is still changing it. It might not even be an exaggeration to say it saved my life. While it can’t promise a perfect life and clear mind free of troubles, it certainly makes a difference to my mental health. Even if some days it is only a little difference. It is better than nothing. Better than I would have been with my anxieties and previous tendency for self destruction. Yoga subtly permeates your being. It changes the way you react to things on and off the mat. The way you think and the way you interact with people. It isn’t all magic and mysticism. In many ways it is very mundane, connecting to the breath and the movement and a simpler way of being. A state that is innate to you. But even these little changes and the mundane bits can still be a revelation and highly applicable to your day-to-day life. The changes for me where a domino effect. I quit drinking, became vegan and got interested in Zen Buddhism. I even met author and Buddhist priest Brad Warner through Matt and Yoga Manchester. Going to interesting talks and meditation workshops has really helped me a whole bunch. After practice for several years I wanted to pass these benefits on. I thought it had been such a great help that I wanted to help others. I had toyed with the idea of doing teacher training for a while and for various reasons didn’t follow it through. Whether it was due to work commitments, lack of money, the courses falling through, or other excuses. However, eventually the stars aligned and I completed the David Swenson Ashtanga Teacher Training 2016 and got my first taste for teaching. It was a 40 hour course and an intense immersion into teaching. I met some lovely people on that course (waves to those concerned). David is a legend and an international yoga celebrity. A really wonderful guy to learn from. He is also really relatable, funny and wise, and a real down-to-earth dude (there is a pattern forming here). If you get a chance to practice with David I highly recommend it. After a brief stint of teaching Ashtanga I wanted to learn more and become a better teacher. So I was thrilled to learn Matt was starting a 200 hour teacher training program with full certification. It was a scary and exciting prospect to clear out my bank account and commit to such a massive course. But onwards and upwards, “first day of the rest of your life”, Matt assured me. A couple of weeks before the course was due to start my mum died suddenly. Which was awful. The course started with a week-long intensive program the day after my mum’s funeral. My head was in pieces. I am not sure how I kept it together, in many ways I didn’t. But it was such a lovely space to be in and to work all that stuff out. In a weird way there was no better place to be. I can’t even imagine what would have happened or how I would have been if I didn’t have the practice and the space. I was in a lovely studio, with supportive people and amazing teachers. Getting to practice yoga everyday, while learning and studying did take my mind off everything else. Looking back on that first week I thank everyone there so much for putting up with me and just being there, even if they didn’t know what was going on at the time. It felt like finding a missing piece of the jigsaw, that was there all along. It was really helpful to expand my yoga practice into disciplines outside of Ashtanga and it really opened my mind to new ways of moving. As for coming full circle. I was asked by Yoga Manchester’s Josh Wright to cover one of his Yoga for Cyclists classes at the last minute. I nervously accepted. The class was in a massive school sports hall. There ended up being 22 people there. My usual classes were 6 - 10 people in a cosy little studio. So it was a bit of a trial by fire. Every time another person walked through the door my heart beat faster. We ran out of mats and people started to improvise with the crash-mats in the gym. Sharing them like they were about to do some kind of yoga Judo. Highly unorthodox but I thought it went pretty well.  I found myself channelling my inner Matt Ryan and remembering my first ever yoga class back in the day. Visualizing that school cafeteria (I could almost smell the school dinners). I hope that I was as down to earth as Matt was back then and that I made the class as accessible and fun as I had found them. It was a tremendous honour to stand there front and centre and deliver the class I started in. I hope I did Marie and Matt proud, you know. Writing this and thinking back to where I began, the person I was and who I am now, it is all intertwined with Yoga and people I met along the way. The Yoga Manchester family and community looked after me all these years, here and there, in one way or another and kept me on a relatively even keel. I have met awesome people, famous teachers and celebrities and made friends for life. Coming full circle from scruffy bearded manc in a yoga class, to scruffy bearded manc teaching a yoga class. A riveting rags to riches tail of love, loss and redemption, I am sure. It is hard to think of it turning out any other way. So here’s to many more years of Yoga in Manchester and welcoming more people to the family. It is a total honour to be a part of it. There really is a class out there for everyone and amazing, experienced and compassionate teachers. Yoga Manchester’s motto is “Yoga for everyone” and it is true. So beginner or advanced, get yourself out there and get on a mat. Whether that is in a sports hall, gym, church or studio. We all start somewhere and there is sure to be a class, workshop, talk or course for you.

Class : Yoga for Sports Chorlton every Monday 6.30pm-7.30pm

Teacher : Marie Harris

 

The Class

Yoga Manchester’s ‘Yoga for Sport’ class is aimed, rather surprisingly, at people who play sport or have physically active lifestyles. Now, I wouldn’t place myself into either of these categories. I haven’t played an actual sport since my 13 year old basketball days (before I discovered boys and lip-gloss), but I do run for fun and on top of my usual yoga practice, also have a steady gym attendance. The closest I get to ‘sport’ nowadays is the 0.5-mile walk from car to desk in 4inch heels. So, would I actually benefit from attending a class designed specifically for the sporty types amongst us? As I drive up to the school venue in Chorlton I’m thinking this class will be a walk in the park. After all, I’ve had a daily yoga practice long enough to hold my own on the yoga mat, this class is 30 minutes shorter than my usually class and I can do sun salutations with my eyes closed (although you shouldn’t). I find the school with ease, located at the end of a side street, just off Longford Road. The first hurdle complete! I usually get lost when attending new classes so I’m already quite pleased with myself. However, true to form I did not read the very clear instructions on the Yoga Manchester website (the ones that state the class is held in the sports hall at the back of the school) and proceeded to try and enter the school through the, now locked, main entrance. Finally noticing the sign on the fence that read ‘Sport Yoga’ I make my way round the back on the school and into the sports hall. Not my usual yoga venue but what better surrounding for a sport focused class then a basketball court! The room is warm and just the right size (not full basketball court size luckily). I roll out my mat and wait for the other students to arrive.  

The Teacher

Marie, the teacher, stands at the front of the class and introduces herself to her students. She talks briefly about last weeks class focus and then goes on to tell us this weeks area of focus; calves and hips. She talks anatomically about the body and I instantly trust her. During the opening stretches she asks the class to acknowledge where in the leg we are feeling each stretch. Not only does she teach us how to adapt and develop the muscles but she’s also teaching us how to understand those muscles ourselves. For months I’ve been convinced that I have an issue with certain postures because of lack of flexibility in my hamstrings. Just one class with Marie and I now realise the issue is my calf, not my hamstring. So now I can work on developing that muscle because I’ve been taught, in just one class, how to listen to what my muscles are telling me. As she walks around the class she adjusts postures with a quick description as to why she’s going to do it; ‘I’m just going to rotate this shoulder so you get a nice opening in the chest’. Full demonstrations are given at the front of class so each student knows exactly how to perform each posture.  

The Ambience

I expected this class to be quite male heavy in number because it’s ‘for sport’. In reality the gender balance was equal, there were no big burly blokes or gymnast-esc women. Most people arrived on a bike, wearing luminous gear and a willingness to learn. As I looked around the class I could see everyone’s genuine eagerness to understand their muscle groups and how to benefit each. Everyone is here with one aim, to rectify and resolve any current physical niggles and to make their bodies more able to perform the desired tasks.  

The Challenge

As I flung my arms into the air at the start of the practice ready for ten sun salutations I quickly realised this wasn’t that kind of class. No sun salutations, no chants and definitely no ‘Oming’. This is definitely different for me. The class is very much focused on building strength and stretching the muscles. Marie gave two variations of each posture, one more challenging than the other, students are free to choose any variation they like. We stretched our calves, elongated our hamstrings and opened our hips before moving onto the upper body and twists. The class is somewhere between a yoga practice and a session with your favourite PT (not the scary boot camp kind but more the ‘you can do this! type). I can definitely see the attraction for people wanting to enhance their sporting ability or nurse an injury. With Marie’s guidance I learn how to work on the areas of my body that needed a little extra help. Not bad for an hour on the mat. So whether you’re a pro-footballer, an amateur cyclist, a casual swimmer or, like me, have an addiction to stilettos I think everyone can benefit from a little yoga for sport.           Review by Sarah Later I was 19 years old when I took my very first yoga class – not only because I wanted to be uber fit and bendy but because I was anxious and stressed about everything I could find to be anxious and stressed about. For a little over a year now I’ve been a student of Matt’s and each day I grow a little more obsessed with this practice. So, I obviously jumped at the chance to practice with every Yoga Manchester teacher and then write about my experiences with each. I hope one of these reviews ignites enough curiosity in you to try a class; maybe you’ll fall in love too.
October sees Claire Trinder made Yoga Manchester's student of month. Counting long distance running (52 miles!!) as a passion, Claire has practised yoga for almost 20 years. Enjoy Claire's story and leave any of your thoughts in the comments section below.  

Tell us a bit about yourself  Claire-Trinder-Running-Yoga

Originally from further south, I gradually migrated north-wards and ended up in Manchester 19 years ago as a student who stayed at uni a bit too long and has stayed in Manchester even longer! I started off in biochemistry and after getting my PhD in bioinformatics I worked mainly within the cancer research field and this eventually led me to Northern Ireland.  I loved living over there, it is a beautiful place and the people are so friendly, but I missed my family and friends too much and I returned to Manchester but continued to travel back for work. I have recently given all of that up and am now working in Information Security at HP. I have lived in and around Didsbury since my student years and live in West Didsbury with my husband and so much more than my best friend Rich. When not at home or at a yoga class I am usually out running around the roads or the hills. I love long distance running , especially if it is out and about in the countryside. I have done over 50 marathons and over 30 events that are longer than marathon distance, my longest event being 52miles.  

What are you currently listening to? Tell us about it

Music wise I have a slight obsession with Muse and if they are touring, I am there. They also hold a special place in my heart because Rich and I got together and got engaged at a Muse gigs - although he has since moved on in his music tastes! He is big into his music so I will generally yield to whatever he wants on in the house, but I also like a bit of Green Day and Foo Fighters - great for cleaning the house to. Radio wise, I am generally tuned into Radio 4;I like the plays, dramas and have a strange captivation by the shipping forecast, it all sounds so mysterious.  

What brought you to yoga and how long have you been practising?

I first started going to yoga when I was at Uni in a bid to do more exercise. The teacher, Louise, told me about a class she taught at the village hall on Sundays and I went along there every so often as well. I dipped in and out of it for a few years and find it a great complement to the running I do. I was delighted when the Sports Yoga sessions started and attended various different classes when I was in Northern Ireland but was very happy to return to the Yoga Manchester classes when I moved back here permanently. My practice has become a lot more forgiving and I enjoy exploring the spiritual as well as physical side. I enjoy the opportunity to step of the speeding treadmill of life and into my own space where my focus becomes purely internal and a time for self-awareness without criticism (I am working on the last part!).  I recently introduced my mum to yoga as she was recovering from a serious illness and it was great to see how that helped her.  

What is your yoga super power?

I have no yoga super power apart from perseverance and acceptance of where I am at. I have learnt to embrace the rest period at the end of a session instead of fighting my way through it and back into the multi-threaded life that we all seem to live nowadays. I love Trikonasana, there is something about the angles and the rigidity of it. I enjoy shoulder stand and being almost upside down, one day I hope I can experience that in headstand or handstand. There are a number of the seated postures that I use to help me after a long run or challenging event and nothing beats taking an extended time to relax into these postures in the comfort of my own living room (with perhaps a glass of wine to hand!)  

 If you could be a character in a well-known film, who would you be and why?

That’s a really difficult one and I had to think about this for ages before concluding that being Storm in X-Men would be awesome as I’d be able to control the elements like she does. I also thought about actually playing a character and figured that any movie where you have a good laugh would be fun to be part of and I was reminded of Cannonball Run from the 80s and all the outtakes they show at the end and how much fun that looked like. Something like Scary Movie (1, 2, 3 or wherever they are at now) also looks like a cracking laugh.  

Where in Manchester is heaven?

Home will always be heaven to me, my parents’ home and my home in Manchester, especially my bed AND my garden. Having only just got myself a small patch of garden area, I am enjoying seeing how the plants grow and change on a daily basis. I love Greens in West Didsbury for food, Reserve for wine and also really like the chilled out vibe in Mary and Archies on Burton Road. I don’t tend to stray far from my house!  

If you could go back in time to see something or change something, what would it be?

That’s another tricky one! I don’t think it is possible to go back in time and do one single thing that would make our current world a nicer place to be, but I would love to go back and meet my Mum’s dad who sadly died before I was born. And just take a peek round my parents’ lives when they were younger!  
After the success of the Yoga for Sports weekly session in Didsbury, Yoga Manchester are pleased to announce details of a second weekly class in Chorlton. The session  is at St.Johns primary school in Chorlton  every Monday from June 3rd  6.30pm-7.30pm . For more details click here In this weekly ‘drop-in’ Yoga class the teacher will be leading students through a sequence of postures designed especially for sports practitioners from all sporting disciplines – whether you play football or rugby , swim or ride a bike Yoga for Sports will help you to improve your overall performance and keep your body in a tip top condition and injury free. Many top professional athletes including Ryan Giggs , Phil Neville and tennis player Andy Murray are using Yoga to keep their bodies in a top condition which in turn pro longs their career at the highest level. Most premiership football teams are now using Yoga as a way of helping players recover more quickly from physical damage and also to prevent the risk of long term injury.