Yoga article for Greens Norton News

Yoga… what?...when?....why?

About three years ago my daughter Caitlin dragged me off to yoga class, me feeling I was far too old to begin yoga, and to my great surprise I absolutely loved it and have scarcely missed a week since. We are very lucky in Greens Norton in that we have a superb yoga teacher, Michele Stein, who makes yoga accessible to all no matter what your body is like!! In the session I usually attend there is a huge mix of ages from sixth formers to people well into retirement and this week I asked them why they have got into yoga. There was a good deal of agreement that yoga is good for both body and mind and a sample of the responses are:

  • I’m here for my physical and mental well-being: to relax me and my body. I’m always in my head so I have to get out sometimes!
  • I come because my joints are getting stiff and yoga keeps them moving. If I miss a week I can stiffen up a lot. It also helps me deal with stress.
  • I decided to come to yoga as I’m working over a computer all day and it helps me cope with the physical results of that. It helps me get my head straight too.
  • Before yoga I used to have lots of bad neck and shoulder problems and coming to yoga for the last 17 years has sorted this and kept me supple.
  • I started yoga for the relaxation side and thoroughly enjoy it and find it also keeps me flexible.
  • It’s me time! This is my only time for me in a demanding week and it keeps me sane!
  • I was getting anxious at work and Michele gave me breathing techniques which have helped me cope with that.
  • It has helped me sleep.

There were also comments that are specifically about the classes that Michele runs, including:

  • I’ve tried yoga in the past and have found some yoga teachers are too fixed in their approach but Michele adapts ideas so that I can scale down what I’m doing if it isn’t a good week for me. Different people work at different levels within the classes.
  • The sequences are always different and there is no chance of getting bored.
  • The sequences are lovely and flowing so you work up to harder activities and your body copes surprisingly well!
  • It’s a lovely friendly group and it’s important to me that I don’t feel intimidated.
  • I really like having a good teacher and know from experience what a big difference this makes. I know that I ‘m being led by a teacher who really really knows what she is doing.

Yoga is age old and its many benefits are well proven. It has been passed down through the ages. There are many different techniques of yoga like the branches of a tree hatha yoga is the best known .Hatha yoga is the philosophy of physical wellbeing by gently stretching muscles and toning the nerves throughout the body, the health of a person can greatly be improved. The postures can be adapted to suit all ages and abilities.

Some people may worry if they are not familiar with attending a class but because each person is totally concentrating on what they are doing, no-one looks at anyone else! It is a completely uncompetitive activity. Michele talks through each movement so does not expect anyone to know what to do. She understands that each body is different so does not expect identical movements!

I asked Michele what is yoga? We spent a long time talking about this as that is a huge question and we could use up the whole magazine in coming up with an answer. Michele explained that yoga comes from the word yuk which is the Sanskrit word which means to yoke to unite or body, mind and spirit. Yogis originally practised yoga as a way of managing their body and mind in order to become one with God and this is still important for many practitioners, however most people who go to yoga classes go to become more in touch with themselves and to gain more control over their body and mind without necessarily thinking about the spiritual side. Yoga is not a religion in itself but it does have a lot in common with the major religions of the world including Christianity. It can be practised by those with any or no religion convictions. Yoga helps us to believe in ourselves and to accept others. It is trying not to master others but yourself. Learning to relax body and mind helps us to see life as it is without prejudice and this can bring more peace and happiness into our lives. We don’t have to be, like the true yogis, on the journey to true enlightenment but yoga can help us to be on a path to increased happiness and peace.

I asked Michele about her training. She began to practise yoga when she was 16 and completed her two year diploma training over 20 years ago. This included practical and theory with a great deal of biology in studying the body. She also completed remedial training for teaching people with disabilities of various sorts including people who are wheelchair bound. She constantly updates her training and says that with yoga there is always more to learn and there are some fabulous courses she goes on which give her new ideas and inspiration. Her first class was in our old sports pavilion about 20 years ago. She now teaches three classes a week in Greens Norton one in Potterspury and one in Evenly village hall if you can’t make your usual session you can swap to another one for that week.

I asked Michele if she had any message to give: she said she would just encourage people to come along and try it out (and an initial session is free). She says we should all take responsibility for our own health and wellbeing and improve the quality of our lives whatever it offers!

Come along and try!! What do you have to loose.

Yoga can and does change your life that I can guarantee.

Stephanie Ince

I went to my first yoga class almost 40 years ago and although I’ve practised on and off with other teachers over the years, it’s only been since I started attending Michele’s classes about 10 years ago that I’ve been inspired to practise yoga more consistently.

Why yoga over other activities? Firstly and very simply, yoga makes me feel good: it’s relaxing, energising and strengthening and I feel better at the end of a session than before I began. Secondly, as I’ve grown older and my body has succumbed to the inevitable stiffening and tightening, yoga has helped to restore and maintain a suppleness, flexibility and durability almost reminiscent of my younger days. And because yoga concentrates on symmetry and alignment, it helps maintain strength and flexibility in a completely balanced way.

Why yoga with Michele over other teachers? I can honestly say that Michele has proved to be the best yoga teacher I have ever practised with. I have total trust in her for a number of reasons: she has several years’ experience and knowledge; she has a strong commitment to and passion for yoga; she is inclusive and encouraging; she teaches in an informed way with honesty and clarity and she is completely tuned into each student’s needs, capabilities and limitations, providing individual attention when needed while calmly keeping the classes going. Michele’s teaching involves her constantly learning new and different ideas about yoga which ensures the classes remain fresh and the students remain inspired. In short, Michele is a marvellous yoga teacher with a deep understanding of the physical and spiritual elements of the practice and I couldn’t recommend her classes more highly.

Gayle Bandy

I started doing Yoga with Michele in 2007 after being diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis at the age of 42. When she started working with me my joints were very stiff and swollen. I was very low and finding it hard to come to terms with my condition.

Very slowly at first Michele worked with me on a one to one basis. Over the last few years her Yoga practice has improved my life in many ways. General mobility, core strength , pain relief, relaxation, confidence to name a few. I not only use her Yoga teaching to help with my R.A symptoms but use it to deal with the ups and downs of my everyday life.

Alison Phelps

As a recent retiree, from a very stressful occupation. I found that I felt very stiff, tense, and lacking in confidence about my own ability to move my body effectively without causing aches and pains. I had attended some Yoga classes but many years ago and wondered whether i was now to old and stiff to take it up again. I plucked up the courage, to enrol in one of Michele's classes, and have been delighted with the change I can see in myself. The poses are undertaken gradually and systematically and Michele builds confidence and improves performance in a calm and supporture way. She is an excellent teacher, making us all feel that anything is possible. I'm never going to be a star, but this class has certainly changed my life for the better.

Chris, 63, Towcester

I have attended Michele's Yoga class for nearly 3 years. Her sessions are carefully planned. Well taught and delivered with the needs of her clients uppermost. We are always given the options of taking a stretch further, with the proviso that we "listen to our bodies" so we are in control. The classes are very enjoyable & we are encouraged to watch Michele demonstrate anything we are unsure of . Beginners are integrated immediately & you are not made to feel inadequate.

My husband's sudden & unexpected death, nearly 4 years ago, left my body in shock & suddenly I felt very old and stiff ( I was in my early 60s). Michele's classes have made me supple, given me a sense of physical and emotional well being. Helped me to understand better how my body works, given me exercises to use when I get lower back pain, strengthened my body generally and much more.

I always feel better after our sessions. I completely recommend Michele & her classes.

Christine Jeffery

I joined Michele's yoga classes more than 10 years ago and it was one of the best decisions I ever made. I had asthma from the age of 7 and although I was being physically active, I had a serious fall when I was 30 which led to numerous problems with my back and x-rays revealed that I had scoliosis. I spent 6 weeks in hospital and over the next 3 decades suffered a lot of pain and reduced mobility.

I started yoga when I retired and in the last few years of my asthma attacks and now they are reduced and I seldom suffer from back pain. I am now in my seventieth year. Michele is an excellent teacher who is always able to adapt the yoga exercises to suit ones abilities and we have plenty of laughs. I would recommend her classes to anyone of any age.

Pat Richardson