Search

image of footpath sign

“Yoga means addition of energy, strength, and beauty to body, mind, and soul.” Amit Ray


I love the glint in my students’ eyes, their rosy cheeks, and their huge smile after a strong yoga class. Even though they feel all hot and sweaty, they will say: “Whoa, that was wonderful !” I am so proud of them when every single one of them managed to get into Half-Moon pose because they were well prepared.


Have you ever wondered why you might find balancing in yoga a challenge ? Tree Pose or Half Moon for example, to be able to get into those poses, you need to approach them with calm, poise, balance and strength. You need strength in your ankles, legs, glutes, back, core and key warm up exercises are essential to assist. A sense of proprioception, i.e. knowing where you are in space is also helpful.

How can yoga help ? Yoga is known for gaining flexibility. It often comes as a surprise to many who come to class to realise that actually yoga is much more. Yoga can also strengthen you. It depends on the type of yoga you choose to practice but if you choose a physical practice, you should fairly quickly benefit from a gain in proprioception, strength and flexibility.


Why should you include strength in your practice ? Strength and conditioning are essential for balance and enhance your movement quality. In class, we work on strengthening by consciously connecting and engaging our core, back, leg muscles and glutes rather than simply relying on our joints to stand in a yoga pose. I see this happening too often in yoga classes. When you learn to engage your muscles, your brain is alert and it creates stability throughout. Balancing becomes easier.


What is strength ? It is defined by the ability of muscles to overcome resistance. Strength can also be defined as the amount of force a muscle or a muscle group can exert. It can be divided into two parts dynamic strength and static strength . So you gain strength by engaging in a vinyasa flow as well as holding more static poses for a length of time. Ideally, you will combine both.


The word strength is an attested word from Old English: "strengþu", "strengð." It had a sense of bodily power, vigour and fortitude but also a sense moral endurance.

There are numerous benefits to incorporating strength in your practice.


1) Improving performance: In any given sport but also in real life scenarios such as being able to move with ease and keep the range of movements you currently have to be able to perform all the things you love as you get older. One of my older students, currently in his 70s, who started yoga with me a year ago has improved so much in flexibility, strength, and balance and loves it.


2) Preventing injury: By having a better range of movement, you have less risk of injuring your body in your sport or in real life. If you injure yourself, your recovery will be quicker. You will also have a better proprioception and have a lesser risk of losing your balance. Proprioception is awareness of movement and position of the body into space.


3) Adding quality years to your life: Movement and strength are essential especially with a sedentary lifestyle. Sitting hours at a desk, in the car or on a train, on the sofa, on a chair, reduces the range of movements in and around your hips, pelvis, lower back. Your hip flexors shorten, your lower back gets compressed, you get back pain and your upper back collapses. As your muscles weaken, your whole body gets out of alignment and your body starts to complain in the neck, shoulders, back etc. Your breathing and digestion get affected and you start to feel tired. It is a downward spiral. By adopting a regular yoga practice, you help to address all those issues.


4) Balance: What your body really needs is something like yoga or any other sport you enjoy that helps you counteract all those daily effects. First you need to elongate your tight muscles, mobilise your joints and open the whole of your front body and only then you should start strengthening your back muscles. By opening your front body, decompressing and lengthening your spine, you are allowing your body to get back to its natural alignment.


5) Better health: Everyone knows balanced exercise improves your overall health and wellbeing on a physical and mental, emotional level. In addition, building muscle is known to improve bone density, boost your metabolism, improve sleep, and increase brain health. Numerous studies have shown that strength training can play a role in slowing bone loss, and several show it can even build new bone. To prevent or slow down osteoporosis, there are numerous articles into the benefits of strength training improving bone density with a safe regular yoga practice.


6) Improved posture: Better alignment and stronger muscles improve your posture and your overall body functions including your respiratory system and circulation. Both of which impact your daily energy levels and mood. In yoga, we consistently work on good posture and breathing for our wellbeing.


7) Happy mood: As you exercise, you tone up, you find strength you did not think you had. You build strength and resilience. You feel exhilarated as you push yourself out of your comfort zone and starts to do things you never thought were possible. As you challenge yourself and exert discipline to do your practice regularly, you start to see results. As you get stronger in body and mind, you have more energy and feel happier in yourself. You gain a stronger body, stronger mind, and new confidence: And with the release serotonin and endorphins you feel good !!


8) Team Spirit & Community: When you join a class, you are part of a group. You feel supported and motivated. You create bonds and encourage each other. You grow together and rejoice together. The teacher and your peers are there to support and encourage you. You get individual attention and yet we work as a team to achieve best results.


It is so beneficial for your mind and body to be stimulated and challenged. As well as strength, why not also consider varying the ways you move ? If you tend to always do the same things, you set patterns in the body which limit your movements. Did you know that by doing something different and new, you not only stimulate your body and muscles, but also your coordination, your brain and nervous system get a boost by creating new neural pathways ?


Why not try to mix speed, agility, endurance, mobility, core stability, and weight training in your practice ? Variety is the spice of life to keep your body and mind in tip top shape.


I like to vary my classes by choosing a different theme for each month. We explore and move in different ways. We warm up. We hold poses different length of time. Sometimes we move slowly, sometimes fast. And we take the time to relax, always.


When you change your body and your posture, you also change your mindset. As you become aligned and connected, you feel calmer, focussed, grounded yet light and energised. A better version of yourself which can fire on all cylinders whether it is walking, playing golf, sailing etc.

I offer various online zoom classes such as beginner’s yoga, non-beginners’ yoga, dynamic morning yoga, meditation, Somatics or relaxation. Classes Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays. Group sessions or private tuition available. To find out more, visit www.yogawithbelle.co.uk


To book, simply email yogawithbelletw@gmail.com to receive your Zoom link 24hrs prior to class. Your 1st group class is free. You can sign up for the newsletter to be kept informed of our yoga classes and workshops and follow me on Instagram or Facebook for yoga tips, fun and wisdom.


3 views0 comments
  • belleleroy

Updated: Mar 16


image of footpath sign

“Yoga is the fountain of youth. You are only as young as your spine is flexible.” Bob Harper


Why is it important to keep your spine flexible yet strong and mobile ? If you are dealing with back pain, yoga may be your answer. I have helped many including my fiancé who recently suffered from lower back pain after working for months on his laptop from home, not being set up properly due to confinement following the Covid pandemic. A lot of driving on top did not help either. Suddenly, his back went and he literally could barely move in and out of a chair. His back had locked. After 2 weeks of daily yoga somatics practice with me, he fully recovered.


Yoga is a mind-body approach that is often beneficial to treat back pain and the accompanying stress. Appropriate yoga poses together with breathing can help relax & strengthen your body.


If you have any history of lower back injuries, problems with your discs, or experience pain, it is always best seeing a physical therapist before doing any exercises. If your lower back pain is more of a general achiness or discomfort, it is worth trying some yoga to address any tightness and alignment issues. As my students say: "Bye bye back pain; they feel fitter and stronger than ever"


Our spine is our central support system. Its key role is to keep us upright, connecting our different body parts and is our link between earth and sky. Our relationship to our environment is defined by our spine. If you work from home, you need to be properly set up to support your back and neck. How healthy and aligned your spine is will impact your mood, your health, wellbeing and your feelings towards the world and yourself. The reverse is also true. Your thoughts, emotions, environment will shape your posture affecting your spine alignment, your state of being and physiology. Have a good set up, take breaks, move and invest in a strength and mobility practice.


A forward rounded posture will close and compress the front organs (heart, lungs, digestive system) preventing them from functioning at optimum level and creating strain as they now have to work twice as hard to keep you going in a reduced space. A back held rigidly in a military fashion will also create tension and lack flexibility. A misaligned spine due to stress, bad posture or habits invites aches and pain in your back and neck, impinging most likely also on your shoulders’ freedom of movement.


For a healthy back, it is best to address flexibility with core stability, correct your posture opening the chest, mobilising shoulders, upper back, ribs and really connecting to your breathing.


Your spine should naturally be upright feeling supported and yet flexible enough to keep you moving with ease in every day life. For walking, running, bending to pick up the kids or grandchildren, twisting to reverse in your car, shopping, gardening, playing sport... Firstly, you need to maintain or re-establish alignment and space within your body, within your organs by bringing your posture back in neutral. It dramatically changes your practice and your state of being. Good breathing is key. Most importantly, it is a safer approach. Secondly, including strength and flexibility in your yoga practice is essential. Your spine and pelvis were made for action.


The spine has three natural curves that form an S-shape to absorb forces through the body. Regular stretches relieve tension and strong muscles keep the natural alignment. This means a strong back and core. The spine loves movement. Yoga offers us extension, forward bend (flexing at the hip – not in your lower back so bend the knees if you need to), lateral flexion, inversion, backbend and twists. Variety is the spice of life and brings joy to your back.


Our spine consists of 33 bones, named vertebrae, divided into five sections: the cervical, thoracic, and lumbar spine sections, and the sacrum and coccyx bones. In between each vertebra, discs allow movement so we can stand, bend, extend, twist. Strong muscles and bones, flexible tendons and ligaments, and good communication via your central nervous system contribute to a healthy spine. The spinal nerves act as “telephone lines,” carrying messages back and forth between your brain, body and spinal cord to control sensation and movement.


As we age, our discs increasingly lose the ability to reabsorb fluid and become brittle and flatter. This explains why we get shorter as we grow older. Somatics helps to decompress the spine and the whole body, helping us to feel longer and taller. A regular yoga practice helps to lubricate the discs and keep the spine strong and mobile. I like to mix both Somatics and yoga in my classes.


One of my all-time favourites at the end of the day is Constructive rest: Lying on your back with your legs bent, feet on the floor hip width apart. It releases and decompress the whole spine. You can stay in this one up to 10 min. Simply focus on your breathing. I usually follow this with bringing my knees to the chest rocking from side to side with gentle spinal twists. Twists are nourishing for the spine bringing mobility and fresh blood supply to your discs. It feels so good !


Back care is key in our practice so we can feel strong, balanced and move with ease in a safe manner in our daily lives. It will also improve our posture, our breathing, the function of our organs (as we avoid unnecessary compression) and uplift our mood giving us more energy for life. As for clarity of mind, BKS Iyengar once said “Focus on keeping your spine straight. It is the job of the spine to keep the brain alert” Brilliant example of mind body connection, don't you think ?


Yoga for Backs. This month, each week, we focus on a different part of the back: lower back, then mid and upper back. Expect stretching, twisting, backbends, core, back and glutes work. Bye Bye aches and stiffness. Stay mobile, feel stronger and better ! See you on the mat.


Group classes and private tuition available online via Zoom.

8 views0 comments
  • belleleroy

image of footpath sign

Pooped after 2020 craziest events, Christmas & New Year ? Time to put your feet up ! Here is an invitation for you to slow down, rest and recharge your batteries to leave you feeling restored and refreshed. Sounds boring ? Read on…


“Without a doubt, the need for restorative yoga is great in today’s exhausting and time-pressured world. Countless studies show the ill effects of stress on the mind, body and spirit. We all need a few minutes a day to disconnect, settle into ourselves and rest in silence.” Judith Hanson Lasater


Yoga is a philosophy, science and an art, first described in old Sanskrit texts – the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita and the Yoga Sutras. Yoga is ancient, and yet so relevant to us in a modern frenetic world. It allows us time to return to our body and reconnect with ourselves. The word yoga is generally translated as joining or union. Yoga is a journey of exploration of the body & mind with the breath. It connects mind, body and spirit. It helps us to quieten the mind and find balance.


Often, we can get distracted and pulled in all directions in life by everything that goes around us in the world. And boy, there is plenty right now. This affects our balance and wellbeing at all levels. We can lose sight of our centre and a sense of being lost. We need to regroup and ground ourselves. We do so by reconnecting with our “self”. We cannot give or support anyone if our own “jar of cookies is empty”. It is so important to look after oneself first to rest and recharge our batteries so to speak. Often, we come last and resting comes last on our “To do list” which often gets squeezed out as we ran out of time because we have so much to do. An endless list. Restorative yoga asks us to disengage from it all, pause, breathe, come back to our centre to look deep within befriending ourselves. We learn to care for ourselves by “being here” and letting go.


Our body, mind and nervous system needs soothing. In yoga, we talked about “Prathyahara” restorative yoga, we learn to pull back, withdraw our senses from the outside world to tune into our inner world, to our centre to rest and restore ourselves mentally, physically and emotionally by just coming back to a mode of “being”. We "check in" on ourselves and become the observer.


As Judith Hanson Lasater, the queen of restorative yoga says, “we use props to create positions of ease and comfort that facilitate relaxation and health. Restorative yoga is about opening not stretching.” The props allow us to feel completely supported so we are able to consciously let go and rest. This is a neurological response. We learn to be here in the present moment with ourselves and for ourselves. We start to allow tensions to melt away layer by layer and breathe.


Restorative yoga is an act of kindness and love. “Ahimsa” in the yoga philosophy comes as our top priority on the list. It means non-violence. In other words, how can we express love and kindness towards others and oneself on a daily basis to feel good for sure but also to create a better world around us. How about learning to nourish and nurture ourselves with love. A session of restorative yoga can work wonders. Your body and your mind will thank you for it.


By using the breath and choosing carefully selected poses, short term and long-term health benefits are numerous. The practice changes the body physiology including lowered blood pressure, reduced heart rate, decreased release of stress hormones, stress relief, enhanced mental and physical energy and better immunity. It is great to alleviate stress, anxiety, mild depression, fatigue, headaches, digestive issues, backaches etc. The list goes on. More to the point, it stills a busy mind and deeply relaxes the body. It restores the body to its parasympathetic nervous system function, which, in turn, helps the body rest, heal, and restore balance. By allowing time for longer asanas (postures or poses) and deeper breathing, restorative yoga helps elicit the relaxation response. You truly feel refreshed and rested as if you had been on “holiday” somewhere in the sun. Just as good as a good night’s sleep !


Restorative yoga is a practice in and of itself for people of all ages and backgrounds.


The art of learning to become still is one of the most challenging things we can do and yet the most rewarding. Restorative yoga is a form of meditation. “Layers of tension melt away as you learn to be present to what is happening in the body and mind in each moment”. J Lasater.


I am hosting a Restorative yoga workshop Saturday 30th January 2021 10-12 UK time. A blend of breath work, somatics and restorative yoga. To book your space, pls drop an email to yogawithbelletw@gmail.com by Friday evening latest to receive your zoom link.


To find out more, check www.yogawithbelle.co.uk Info & prices under my website events page.








8 views0 comments

"I help my clients to find balance, strength, ease of movement and

peace of mind for a happier life"

Isabelle Leroy, founder of Yoga with Belle