As I am sure you know, the more speed the pace of our lives continue to gain, the more challenging it is to rest, and by rest I mean really rest, deeply and completely undisturbed. This kind of rest is exactly what our nervous system needs in order for us to function better in our daily life, to sleep more deeply and to feel more healthy and happy.

However, when we are distracted by our daily life, it is very challenging to achieve this, and so occasionally we need to take ownership of our situation in order to break the cycle, and take a break in a place where we can retreat from what is our norm and simply return to ourselves. Can you remember the last time you managed to do this, if at all?

If you really can’t remember, or if it has been some time since you got to the magical place of just ‘being’, it may well be time for a retreat, but which one?

Retreats can come in all shapes and sizes, so the initial factor to consider is how much time can you take for yourself without feeling stressed about it? If a week away means you will need to take your laptop with you so you can ‘keep on top of things’ , then this will clearly defeat the aim, so a weekend may be more suitable, and is often enough for you to feel refreshed and ready to take on the week ahead just fine.

A well run retreat should be an example of how less can be more, with a schedule that has enough on offer to assist you in regaining your sense of wellbeing without tiring you out, or making feel pressured to do it all the classes that are on offer. So before booking your retreat, ask to see the schedule and a class description to ensure it suits your needs and ask if the teacher can cater for any injures of conditions you may have. You may also like to check what food is on offer and what additional services are available such as massage. Also where is the venue located? Is it close to nature by beautiful woodland or near the ocean? All these factors can completely change your experience as they all contribute to calming the senses and bringing you back to you natural state of wellbeing, so it is worth checking.

If you are looking for a weekend getaway this month, I have a retreat running at the stunning Florence House in Seaford, East Sussex on July 29th-31st. Set next to beautiful coastline within a house that somehow hold the magical energy and space for groups that attend, with food that is homemade and plentiful and the sea air all around us, guests cannot help but relax.

Classes are run by highly experienced teachers, Sally Parkes, who has been teaching for eighteen years and is author of bestseller ‘The Student’s Manual of Yoga ‘, and Paula Hines who is an Advanced certified Restorative Yoga Teacher. Together they offer a balanced and well thought out class schedule of Dynamic Yoga Flow, Pilates, Restorative Yoga and candle lit relaxation. Food is vegetarian and homemade with special diets being catered for upon request. In between classes guest can enjoy a massage, go for a walk along the beach or simply rest, the choice is yours. Prices start at just £347.
For more information please contact Sally on, call 07983508018 or visit


Pregnancy is the largest emotional and physical transformation a woman’s body will undergo. A woman also becomes more aware of her body and of the many physical and emotional changes that come with being pregnant. She may start experiencing lower back pain, nausea, slower digestion, fluid retention or muscle cramps. These do not affect all women though they all are fairly common symptoms of pregnancy.

Deep steady breathing such as ujjayi will increase mental focus and deep internal strength.

With the appropriate yoga practice, however, many of these issues can be addressed and slowly the mother will feel more balanced as she harnesses her energy and her body begins to function at a more optimal level.

Gentle and rhythmical movements for the lower back and pelvis ease back and hip pain whilst supported savasana will help with disturbed sleep patterns and give the mother some uninterrupted time with her baby. Deep steady breathing such as ujjayi will increase mental focus and deep internal strength. Focus should always be placed on asana that are grounding and work with the Apana Vayu, our downward energy.

This encourages the mother to stay grounded and helps her body prepare for birth, as this is all about physically and mentally letting go and working with nature’s forces, and not against them.

The mental act of ‘letting go’ and the acceptance of ‘what is’ is useful as it helps to nurture a sense of peace, allowing what is not needed for the next chapter in a mother’s life to simply drop away.

Making space for a baby and for mothering is a yoga practice in itself and should never be under-estimated.

Yoga teaches us to be mentally strong and encourages us to go with the flow. It helps us to realise we cannot control everything and prepares us for the unexpected, allowing us to adapt to unforeseen situations. These skills can be applied at any time of life but are especially effective during pregnancy and birth; it leaves us with more space to enjoy the journey from pregnancy into motherhood.

Sally Parkes

As featured in the September 2014 issue of OM Yoga Magazine

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What core skills and competences do students need to teach? 

There is so much choice these days that when it comes to choosing a yoga teacher training programme that making that the right decision can be quite a challenge. Once you have decided what style of yoga resonates with you the next question a prospective student teacher should ask themselves is ‘am I planning to teach at the end of this course?’

Whilst some people do teacher training purely for self-development and feel that they may like to teach somewhere in the future, others definitely want to teach directly after their course finishes and build a solid career doing so. If the latter is the case for you then you need to consider if the course you are looking at contains guidance on how to actually teach. Whilst this sounds like a very obvious aspect to be included in a course not all teacher trainings prepare you for work afterwards as the emphasis is more on developing your yoga practice. Yes, this is obviously invaluable, but teaching yoga as opposed to doing yoga is massively different and requires a very specific set of skills.


Communication skills

A great teacher training course should teach you to communicate with students of differing personalities, abilities and levels of yoga knowledge. And it should teach you to be accepting of your participants’ various stages of their journey into yoga.

Teachers should be able to empower their students to accept themselves on the mat as well as be encouraged to progress their practice and enjoy themselves in the process. This can be achieved by teachers whose skills set includes being able to teach in a visual, auditory and kinaesthetic manner whilst incorporating differing levels of each asana into the class. To make your class all encompassing, knowledge of modifications and progressions and how to integrate them is required as is a general knowledge of common conditions such a lower back ache, high blood pressure and knee injuries.

Teaching yoga as opposed to doing yoga is massively different and requires a very specific set of skills

Sequencing asana

Sequencing asana is also a huge subject that should be covered in your chosen course and how sequences should vary depending on what the teacher is trying to convey and achieve. It is ideal that, following a teacher training, you have several sequences you are familiar with so you are ready should you be asked to teach.

In addition to the order in which asana are taught in, the style they are taught in can dramatically alter the emphasis of the class. For example, the same sequence can be taught strongly with a fast pace and with an authoritive tone of voice and this class will come across as challenging. The same sequence can be taught with a softer voice and a much slower pace with an emphasis on relaxing into the postures, and this will again give a different edge. Both ways of teaching the sequence are effective but in different ways and an effective teacher will know how to change it up when it’s required.

Teaching practice

So, if you are considering teacher training with a view to teach soon after the completion of your course, ask the programme leader about these skills and whether they are included within the course contact hours. And find out how much emphasis is given to teaching practice. It’s also very useful to see how many teachers from a particular training school are actually working as yoga teachers as this is very telling of the course content.

Sally Parkes runs 200 hour Laxmi Yoga (Hatha and Vinyasa) teacher training and pregnancy yoga teacher training. She runs courses in England, Wales, Spain and Dubai (

As featured in the june issue of Om Magazine

As we know there are many benefits to yoga and practising yoga during pregnancy helps with many pregnancy related issues. Common conditions include lower back ache, fatigue, disturbed sleep and slower than normal digestion. With the right asana and pranayama practice however these issues can be much improved and help the mother enjoy her pregnancy and have the energy to focus on bonding with her baby.

It is best to rest as much as possible during the first trimester and so the following sequences should be practised during the second and third trimester only. As with any yoga practice, slow deep breathing is paramount, and even more so during pregnancy. If breathing becomes shallow or irregular during the yoga practice, slow right down and come back to your ‘centre’, just stop and breathe for a few moments. And then continue when you feel ready. Remember pregnancy is not a time to progress your practice, it is a time to slow down and be present, and accept the changes that are happening to you and your baby. Accepting change is a yoga practice in itself and one that should not be underestimated, so be present and enjoy this special time.

Pregnancy Yoga Sequence 1: Sun Salute


Stand in Tadasana (Mountain Pose) with the feet hip-width distance apart and the knees a little bent with the pelvis tucked under very slightly. Bring the hands into prayer position with the chin parallel to the floor and the face and shoulders relaxed. Press down firmly though the feet to create a sense of grounding and connection to the earth. Breathe slowly and deeply.

Now separate the hands and reach them out to either side before reaching them up over the head. Bring the hands together and draw them down through the heart centre in a prayer position as you exhale. Repeat three times.




After the third repetition keep the hands in prayer position and slowly lower the body down into a low squat as you exhale. Pause for two or three breaths. The hands can be in prayer position or on the ground in front of the hips for additional support. Keep the spine as upright as possible and try to feel a sense of grounding through the feet. Engage the pelvic floor and feel the lower abdominals (Transverse Abdominus) draw in for additional support. If the heels lift from the floor during this squat place yoga blocks or similar under the heels. This will help to minimise any stress on the knee joint and help your balance.



From the Low Squat position, place the hands on the floor in front of the feet and move them forwards whilst moving into a box position. Now inhale and bend the elbows so they point back towards the legs (this will help to engage the triceps) and swoop forwards. Be mindful about the alignment of the back and avoid sinking in the lumbar spine. This will avoid pressure in the lower back area. As you move forwards the arms should feel as though they are working strongly. Now as you exhale press firmly into the hands to straighten the arms, arch the spine upwards and move the hips back towards the heels as in Balasana (Child Pose). Repeat this ‘swooping’ movement at least five times and maintain a sense of a flowing rhythm throughout by focusing on moving with the breath.






Now move the hands back towards the knees and move into a low squat again. Pause and breathe before slowly coming up to standing. To do this press the feet firmly into the ground, and with the knees slightly bent, roll up slowly through the spine so the head comes up last. It should feel as though you are restacking the spine. The hands can be placed on the thighs for extra support for the lower back. Return to the start position; Tadasana with the feet hip width distance apart.




Sequence 2: Goddess Flow


From Tadasana with the feet hip-width distance apart, step the feet out wide (at least a meter distance apart) with the toes pointing outwards. Exhale and bend the knees whilst pressing firmly into the feet so that you feel grounded. Now interlace the fingers and reach the arms up towards the sky with the palms of the hands facing upwards. You should feel a stretch through the whole of the upper body. The pelvis is just slightly tucked under to help elongate the sacrum area but not so much that balance is compromised.



Now lower the pelvis a little more deeply by bending the knees more so the legs start to work more strongly in a wide squat position. Keep pressing firmly into the feet to encourage a sense of stability and ensure the knees are aligned over the ankles. Maintain an even breathing pattern throughout. Now reach the arms out to either side and lift the drishti a little. Keep the feeling of strength through the legs and length through the spine, gently contract the abdominal muscles so it feels like the core muscles are hugging your baby into towards the spine. Remain here for five breaths.



Now lightly rest the right forearm onto the right thigh and reach the left arm up and over until the spine is in a lateral flexion (side bend) position and lift the drishti upwards. Maintain a sense of lifting through the upper body by avoiding putting too much weight through the right arm. The stretch should be felt on the left side of the rib cage. Hold for three to five breaths.



Slowly bring the upper body back to centre and straighten the legs so you can set the feet for Virabhadrasana II. Turn the right foot out and the left foot in around 45-degrees. Reach the arms out so they are parallel to the floor and bend the right knee deeply. Again press firmly through the feet and really lengthen through the arms. Hold for three to five breaths.



Now slowly straighten both legs and extend the upper body towards the right. Lightly rest the right hand onto the right shin and extend the left arm up towards the sky. There should be no pressure in the lower back. If there is discomfort through the lumbar spine area then bend the right knee slightly so the right leg offers more support. Rest the drishti to whereever is comfortable for the neck. Hold for three to five breaths.



Now bring the upper body back to the centre and whilst the legs are straight turn the feet out ready for Goddess Pose again. Bend the knees and extend the arms gently out to either side with the elbows a little bent. Draw the shoulder blades down away from the ears and pause for one or two breaths. The legs should feel fatigued at this point so straighten them and lower the arms for several breaths to recover.


7 Once your legs have recovered, come back to Goddess Pose before moving into Goddess Pose with a side bend, Virabhadrasana II and Trikonasana on the left side. Move slowly and with awareness throughout and really focus on connecting with the breath, using Ujjayi pranayama if you can. From Trikonasana come back to Goddess Pose before straightening the legs and gradually bringing the feet back towards one another. Relax the arms by your side and take five deep, slow breaths to recover and help the heart rate return back to normal. Move into relaxation when you are ready.




As featured in the May issue of Yoga Magazine




Pregnancy and birth is the largest emotional and physical change that a woman’s’ body will undergo. It is a time of great change where women become more aware of the workings of their body, and as the baby grows in the womb, the extra weight results in an altered centre of gravity and postural changes which can lead to a variety of aches and pains including lower back and pelvic pain. Many women find however that with regular practise of gentle Hatha yoga and breathing exercises, the body becomes more balanced thanks to an increase in physical strength, which helps to support the body whilst carrying the baby. Muscle tension is also stretched away, leading to a calmer mind and improved sleep.


The holistic approach of yoga can also help to bring about balance of the ever changing hormonal system as well as reduce common ailments such as morning sickness, heartburn, slower than normal digestion, fluid retention and muscle cramps. When the body functions at a more optimal level it allows time for mums-to-be to harness their physical energy whilst bonding with her baby. Yoga for pregnancy therefore can play an invaluable role during this special, and sometimes challenging, time.

In addition to the physical benefits, the spiritual side of yoga can help with the mental and emotional side of pregnancy. The act of ‘letting go’ of many things is required during pregnancy and the acceptance of ‘what is’ will help with being at peace with the aforementioned physical and hormonal changes. Allowing what is not needed in the woman’s current lifestyle to drop away to make way for the baby and mothering can also be seen as a yoga practice in itself, and is often the greatest mental challenge during pregnancy, especially when many women have a valued place in their working environment.

With regards to the actual birth of the baby, it has now been recognised that there are many benefits if the expectant mother can move freely during the birthing process. Upright positions may reduce pain and help contractions be more effective as well as increasing the blood supply to the baby, whilst the downward force of gravity when in a squat or wide leg pelvic position makes for an easier and faster delivery time. The challenge for the mother however is gaining and maintaining the strength and stamina to hold such positions and that is where the practice of yoga asana is very beneficial. Appropriate pranayama can also be used to increase mental focus and to reduce discomfort, especially during contractions. Ujjayi breathing, also known as the ‘Victorious Breath’, is known to be particularly useful during labour whilst Nadi Shodhana or ‘Alternate Nostril Breathing’ is useful during pregnancy for relaxation and improved sleep patterns.

 “Focus should be placed on postures that are grounding and work with the Apana Vayu, one’s downward energy. This will not only help mums-to-be stay mentally grounded but also help the body prepare for birth”

When beginning the practice of Hatha yoga in pregnancy it is useful to always remember that every pregnancy is different and so what may suit one person may not suit another. If a woman already has a regular practice of yoga asana, it is wise to tone it down and to not practise closed deep twists or inversions. Lying flat on the back after thirty weeks should be avoided as should lying on your front when this becomes uncomfortable. Awareness of overstretching as a hormone called Relaxin is produced during pregnancy which helps the body to stretch and allows room for the baby is also required as this can leave muscles and joints more prone to injury. Because of this, asanas involving strong backbends should also be avoided as the lower back is much more vulnerable due to instability during pregnancy and is already slightly compressed in the lumbar region because of the increased weight at the front of the body.

The focus should be more on chest and shoulder opening postures as this area often carries extra tension. The hips and lower back also need gentle stretching to encourage healthy mobility as well as strength work to keep the joints stable. Subtle strength work in the pelvic area will help prevent Pelvic Girdle Pain, a fairly common condition for pregnant women, especially in the third trimester, where pain due to instability is felt through the pelvis, especially at the front around the pubic bone.

This can be quite debilitating for the mum-to-be, so starting some sort of strength work for the lower body, especially for the Gluteus Maximus and Minumus as these are major muscles that offer a great deal of support to the pelvis, before pregnancy is very beneficial when planning to become pregnant. This is because more rest should be taken with the first trimester whilst the foetus settles in the womb, and to allow rest when extreme fatigue that is commonly experienced during this time occurs.

Overall, pregnant women should not expect their practice of yoga asana to progress during pregnancy. Instead it is useful to think of this time during pregnancy as a time to rest, relax and open the body physically and mentally. Focus should be placed on postures that are grounding and work with the Apana Vayu, one’s downward energy. This will not only help mums-to-be stay mentally grounded but also help the body prepare for birth, as birth is all about physically and mentally letting go and working with nature’s forces, in this case gravity, and not against them.

In addition to these benefits, yoga can teach us to be mentally strong and encourages us to go with the flow. It helps us to realise we cannot control everything and prepares us for the unexpected, allowing us to adapt to unforeseen situations. These skills can be applied at any time of life but are especially effective during pregnancy and birth and leaves us with more space to enjoy the journey into motherhood.



As featured in the April issue of Yoga Magazine

In the West hemisphere yoga has become a very popular form of physical exercise and it is easy to think that yoga is only about twisting and stretching the body, breathing practices and a little chanting here and there. However, these are simply tools to assist us on our path to eventually stilling the mind.

The ancient sage Pantanjali said:

Yoga citta vrtti nirodhaha

The restraint of the modifications of the mind-stuff is yoga

This quote tells us that practices of asana, pranayama, chanting, kriyas (cleansing techniques) are ultimately stepping stones for reaching a point where we can control our mind-stuff, our thoughts. That is the ultimate goal of practicing yoga. It is very beneficial for us to become physically and mentally stronger, more flexible and of clearer thought, but if the mind is still constantly busy and unsettled, there is still work to do.

For the last twenty years yoga and traditions rooted in spirituality have always been of interest to me. I always felt there must be more to life and I just couldn’t buy into the idea of a ‘set life plan and then you die’ idea, it just didn’t make sense to me. I knew there was another path for me. I had always enjoyed regular exercise and loved the high it gave me as I often found I felt the most relaxed mentally during my long distance running or cycling sessions. I would find the chatter of my mind would start to finally become quite and I felt totally inspired and happy, but several injuries soon made me realize that this path was not sustainable on a long term basis.

I had already enjoyed one of my first yoga books, ‘Moving into Stillness’ by Erich Schiffman, when I started to attend Iyengar Yoga classes. I found the classes very challenging and so I was totally engaged mentally. Over the first two years of regular Iyengar yoga practice all my injuries healed themselves and my body became pain free. I was a yoga convert!

At that time I was reading a lot of texts by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada of the Krishna Consciousness Yoga System. The more I read the more I realized that I began to understand the philosophy of yoga and it was thanks to such texts and The Yoga Sutras that I finally discovered what yoga was actually all about; it is a journey through the Eight Limbs, a yoga system that gives us tools to keep climbing the yogic ladder and allows us to deal with whatever is thrown at us in a more effectively. The result of this being the fluctuations of our mental stillness gradually become less and less as we become less re-active.

It is when mental stillness is attained that yoga really starts to filter through to our thought, word and deed, and we start to really embrace the yoga philosophy. We start to see The Eight Limbs with new eyes and our journey into yoga starts to come to life, as it reaches all corners of our life.

And so with this in mind I feel The Yoga Healing Bible is an invaluable guide to your journey into yoga. The asanas have been carefully compiled into an order that will gradually strengthen and open the body and balance the nervous system. There is emphasis on correct breathing and relaxation which are paramount to an effective yoga practice. All these elements lead to a well rounded yoga practice and are as important as one another, and are greater than their sum.

The practice of yoga makes your world shine a little more, and you begin to treat yourself and others with more kindness, you are more at ease in your body and the continuous chatter of your thoughts starts to, little by little, become more quiet. I hope you enjoy your journey into stillness.

Sally Parkes


Whether you are a recreational exerciser or serious fitness enthusiast, there are many benefits of a well-balanced strength training programme and it is an essential element towards reaching your optimum health. Here Sally Parkes provides you with a great yoga routine that will strengthen, tone and stretch your legs.

Benefits of Strength Training

Muscle Growth

The most common benefit we tend to think of with regards to strength training is increased lean tissue caused by hypertrophy of the muscles fibres that are being trained. As we know, this leads to an improved metabolic rate which in turn leads to increased overall calorie expenditure. Whilst these metabolic changes are happening there many other positive physiological adaptations occurring. These include:

Increased bone density

When weight is applied to the body the bones begin to manufacture protein molecules that are deposited in the spaces between the bone cells. This leads to the creation of a bone matrix which ultimately becomes mineralised as calcium phosphate crystals, resulting in the bone acquiring its rigid structure. This new bone formation occurs mainly on the outer surface of the bone. It is particularly useful to opt for strength exercises that put load through the pelvis and the spine (the axial skeleton), as these are the more traumatic bones of the skeleton to fracture. Therefore yoga asana that are compound movements are useful as they predominately involve the hips and back. Examples of this include Crescent Lunge, Warrior Two and Chair Pose. NB: The most effective way to increase bone density is to cross train. Use impact sports, weights and yoga for a balanced approach and to avoid injury from overuse.

Tendons and Ligaments become stronger.

Whilst tendons and ligaments cannot increase in size in the same way our skeletal muscles do, our tendons and ligaments do still gain strength and resilience from progressive resistance training. This gives us more stability in and around the joints allowing us to progressively increase the load applied to the joint more safely. Furthermore, strength training can also improve the range of movement of a joint, giving the tendons and ligaments more flexibility and resilience.

Improved glucose metabolism

As our metabolism improves, so does the way we control our glucose levels. A study carried out on men who regularly strength train showed a favorable alteration in glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity (Stone et al, 1991). This in turn reduces insulin release helping to either protect us from Diabetes or help us control Diabetes (Type 1 and 2) and on more general level our sugar levels are more regulated and so our energy levels are more even.

Integrating Yoga for Strength into your fitness regime

Often regular yoga practitioners will do the same asana (yoga postures) daily. Whilst there is something to be said for repetition in that it gives you a marker for your progress, to get the best recovery and therefore strength gains it is advisable to rotate muscles groups as you would do with any weight training programme. Or more simply rotate upper body training with lower body training.

The following yoga asana sequence focuses on the lower body. Ensure you are warmed up before doing the routine. Begin in a standing position on a non-slip mat.

Utkatasana (Chair Pose)

Utkatasana (Chair Pose)

Utkatasana (Chair Pose)

Exhale and bend the knees so you are in a squat position with the feet together. At the same time sweep the arms upwards so they are in-line with the ears. The hands are shoulder width distance apart. Press the thighs together and lengthen the spine by keeping the chest lifted and the chin parallel to the ground and aim for even weight distribution through the feet. Now activate the abdominal muscles to help support the spine. Draw the shoulders downwards, away from the ears and really try to elongate the spine so you feel the contraction of the extensors surrounding especially the thoracic spine. Hold for five to ten breaths.

Runners Lunge

Runners Lunge

Runners Lunge

From Chair pose, fold forwards and place the hands on the ground before stepping the left leg to the back of the mat, so the left leg is straight and strong with the toes tucked under and the right leg is bent at a right angle with the knee directly over the ankle. The right foot is in-between the hands with the toes pointing forwards. Press the heel of the back foot away from you to energise the back leg and lengthen all the way through the spine so the spine feels extended and to allow space to breathe. Contract the abdomen to support the spine. Hold for five to ten breaths.

Downward Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)

Downward Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)

Downward Dog

(Adho Mukha Svanasana)

From the lunge position, press firmly into the hands as the right foot is stepped back in-line with the left foot. Align the feet so they are at least hip-width apart or wider if you have tight hamstrings and hips. Ensure the middle finger is pointing forwards and the hands are fully stretched out to minimise any strain in the wrists. As you exhale, press firmly into the hands and extend the legs so the hips move towards the sky. Allow the heels to drop towards the floor and the neck to relax. Take five to ten deep breaths here.

Crescent Lunge (Anjaneyasana)

Crescent Lunge (Anjaneyasana)

Crescent Lunge


From Downward Dog lift the right foot away from the ground and stretch the right leg upwards until you feel a stretch through the hips. Now lunge the right leg forwards so the right foot is again in-between the hands. Reach the arms upwards so they are in line with the ears and the hands are shoulder-width apart. Keep the left leg as straight as possible to increase the stretch in the hip flexors and strongly contract the quadriceps, keeping the heel off the ground. Ensure the right knee is directly over the ankle and the right thigh is parallel to the floor. Now draw the abdomen in towards the spine to help support the lower back. Breathe so you feel the rib cage expand and retract. Take five to ten deep breaths here.

Warrior Two (Virabhadrasana Two)

Warrior Two (Virabhadrasana Two)

Warrior Two

(Virabhadrasana Two)

Now slowly bring your back heel to the ground by turning the foot out forty-five degrees and press down firmly through the heel. At the same time reach forwards with your right arm and backward with your left arm so they are parallel to the floor. The feet should be aligned directly under the hands and align the left heel with the right heel. The right knee is bent as in Crescent Lunge. Contract the left leg and press the outer left foot firmly into the floor. Keep the sides of the torso equally long and the shoulders directly over the pelvis and draw the shoulders downwards. Take five to ten deep breaths here. Now return to Crescent Lunge by sweeping the arm upwards and lifting the back heel from the ground, so the hips and chest are again facing forwards. Push firmly off the left foot and keeping the right leg bent (to increase fatigue in the quadriceps), step the left foot forwards to meet the right foot and return to Chair Pose for five breaths. Now repeat the above sequence on the left side. Start by lunging back the right leg.

Final asana for relaxation: Start by lunging back the right leg. Childs Pose (Balasana)

Final asana for relaxation: Start by lunging back the right leg. Childs Pose (Balasana)

Final asana for relaxation:

Childs Pose (Balasana)

Step back into Downward Dog and drop the knees to the ground, bring your big toes to touch one another and take the knees a little wider than the hips. Drop the hips back onto the heels and allow the upper body to relax forwards and rest in-between the thighs. The arms are extended forwards with the hands shoulder-width apart. Relax the neck and rest the forehead to the ground. Stay and rest for thirty seconds to one minute to allow the heart rate to return to its resting rate.

By Sally Parkes

As featured in August 2013 Ultra-FIT magazine

Photos: Ali Wardle


With summer (hopefully here!) it’s time to give your training sessions an edge with a vibrant yoga sequence they will energise, strengthen and help get you into great warm weather shape.

All the asana in my Energy Flow Sequence are big and strong movements – they aim to work all the major joints. To maximise the benefits, do make sure that you are fully warmed up and focus on your breathing throughout.


(Chair Pose) Great for warming up the entire body and increasing heart rate

Chair Pose

From a basic standing position, bend the knees so you are in a squat position with feet together. At the same time sweep the arms up so they are in-line with the ears.

The hands are slightly wider than shoulder-width apart so the shoulder blades can stay down. Press the thighs together firmly and contract the quadriceps strongly. Lengthen the spine upward with the sternum almost perpendicular to the ground and the chin parallel to the ground. Stretch into the hands and spread the fingers whilst contacting the abdominal muscles. Hold for five breaths.


(Crescent Lunge) modified version. Is effective in increasing hip flexibility

Crescent Lunge modified

From Utkatasana, slowly take a big step back (approximately 1.5m) with the right leg and at the same time bend the left knee to a 90-degree angle. Keep this transition slow so the stabilisers of the pelvis and the left knee and ankle have to really engage. With the arms still reaching up as in Utkatasana, slowly drop the right knee to the floor. Now un-tuck the right toes and allow the hips to sink forwards a little to stretch the hip flexors and lift the sternum upward to create a slight back bend. Contract the abdomen to help support the lumbar spine, breathe deeply and feel the rib cage expand. Hold for five breaths.

Kumbhakasana (Plank)


From Anjaneyasana, lean forwards and place the hands either side of the left foot, tuck the right toes under and straighten the right leg. Now move into Plank by extending the left leg backwards to join the right leg. Have the feet hip-width apart and ensure the body feels strong by contracting the arms, legs and abdomen. Keep the neck long and draw the shoulder blades down and away from the ears to engage the rhomboids. Neutral alignment of the lumbar spine and pelvis must be maintained throughout to support the lower back. Hold for five breaths.

Uhitta Balasana

(Extended Child’s Pose) Stretches the front of the spine and the anterior deltoids and pectorals

Extended Childs Pose

From a Plank position drop the knees to the floor and keeping the hips lined up over the knees, extend the arms and upper body forward so the chest sinks to the ground. Press the heels of the hands firmly into the ground keeping the arms straight to increase the stretch through the upper body. Hold for five breaths before returning to a Plank position.


Crescent Lunge

Crescent Lunge

From Runners’ Lunge return to Anjaneyasana (see above) but this time keep the right leg as straight as possible to increase the stretch in the hip flexors and strongly contract the quadriceps, keeping the heel off the ground. Hold for five breaths.

Virabhadrasana II

(Warrior 2) Is an effective strength move that also increases energy levels


From Crescent Lunge, turn the left heel in towards the centre of the yoga mat and press the foot down into the mat. Open the arms so they are parallel to the floor with the right arm reaching forwards and the left arm reaching backwards.

The feet should be aligned directly under the hands with the left foot turned in 45-degrees and your right foot turned out to the 90-degrees. Align the left heel with the right heel. Exhale and bend your right knee over the right ankle, so that the shin is perpendicular to the floor. Lower the right thigh parallel to the floor if possible. Hold for five breaths.


(Eagle) Is great for improving balance and joint stability


From Virabhadrasana II return to standing before sweeping the right arm under the left and bend your elbows so the forearms are perpendicular to the floor. Now press the palms together and lift your elbows upwards a little, keeping the shoulders drawing downwards. Bend your knees so you are in a squat position. Lift your right leg and cross it over the left. Point your right toes toward the floor and press the thighs together, strongly contracting the quadriceps. Ensure the knees and elbows are in the centre line of the body and engage the abdomen strongly too. Hold for five breaths.


(Lord of the Fishes) Is a seated twist that increases the rotation of the thoracic (mid) spine and ribcage

Lord of the Fishes

From Garudasana, unwrap the right leg and start to tuck it behind the left leg. At the same time deeply bend the left knee and lower the hips all the way to the floor. The right leg is now under your left leg and the left foot is pressing firmly into the ground. The left knee will point directly upwards. Exhale and twist the torso toward the inside of the left thigh. Press the left hand against the floor just behind the sacrum and press your right upper arm on the outside of your left thigh.

Lengthen the torso upward and rotate more to the left as you exhale. If the sitting bones start to lift up on one side you have twisted the torso too far. Hold for five breaths.


(Boat Pose) with ‘lift up’ – This asana is effective for building strength in the triceps and the transverse abdominal muscles

Boat Pose

From Matsyendrasana, bring the upper body back to centre and place both feet on the ground in front of you. Lean back slightly so body weight transfers to the back sitting bones. The spine will now be on a straight diagonal. Keeping the chin parallel to the floor, reach the arms forwards so they are also level to the floor. At the same time, lift and extend the legs upwards so the feet are level with your eye-line or slightly higher.

Keep the abdomen strong and the chest lifted so the lumbar spine stays straight and does not round at all. Hold this for five breaths before crossing the shins and placing your hands onto a yoga brick either side of the hips.

Tuck the pelvis under a little, press into the hands and extend the arms so the body lifts from the floor. Hold for five breaths before releasing back down to the ground. Repeat the ‘lift up’ five times. Now come up to standing and repeat the above sequence on the left side. Then move into a calming seated forward bend, Paschimottanasana, for ten breaths.


(Seated Forward Bend) Is a calming yoga posture that also stretches the lower back and hamstrings

Seated Forward Bend

Extend the legs in front of you and sit with the spine as straight as possible (sit on a yoga block if the spine is rounding at all). Now exhale and lean the upper body forwards, extending from the lower back, so that the upper body moves towards the thighs. To maximise the stretch of the hamstrings and calf muscles, either hold the feet and gently pull the feet back towards you, or if you are unable to reach the feet, place a yoga belt or similar around the feet and gently pull the belt towards you. Hold for ten deep slow breaths.

As featured in June 2013 ultra-FIT Magazine

Photography by Ali Wardle

Clothes by Urban Lucy

Giving back. Spreading the yoga love

by Paula Hines (@HumbleYogini75)

April 2013 marks two years since I learned I was being made (happily) redundant from my olf full-time job in television. The road since then has had its fair share of ups and downs for sure. I’m grateful I have learned (and continue to learn) so much about myself. And I stay grateful for the lessons, especially the ones that haven’t felt so good at the time (those are often the ones we need the most).

More than ever I feel privileged to have the opportunity to share yoga with others. I’ve been lucky enough to teach on three retreats so far this year and this month will be number four when I return to Marsh Farm House in Sussex for Sally Parkes Yoga’s Spring Detox Retreat. I’m thrilled to say I’ve been invited to join the teacher training team on the Laxmi Yoga 200hr course, led by Sally. I’m really looking forward to meeting the next group of Laxmi Yogis and sharing with them as they begin their teacher training journeys this month.

But then I realised: what a wonderful way to give back in sharing what I have learned so far

When I was first asked to join Sally’s team of fantastic tutorsI did think, “But who am I to do this? I don’t know enough!” It’s not as though I have the many years of teaching experience of the wonderful teachers I have studied with before (I think particularly of Judith Hanson Lasater’s 40-plus years).

But then I realised: what a wonderful way to give back in sharing what I have learned so far, particularly via my own experience of having a back injury and practicing and teaching yoga. It’s really not about knowing everything – no one does. But I know that I have even more passion for yoga now than when I began. Just as I wondered whether I could really be a yoga teacher before I took that first leap, the universe gave me a subtle push to tell me I was ready. This feels the same. As I often say, happily the learning never stops.

As I continue to grow as a yoga practitioner I’ve been fortunate to have people like Sally who have supported me and been there to show me  where I’ve been more ready to go than I thought I was. Now I get to help show the next group of Laxmi Yogis that they’re more ready than they think they are too.

Paula Hines @HumbleYogini75

As featured in the April 2013 issue of OM Yoga Magazine

OM Cover Issue 30 (April 2013)

OM Column Issue 30 (April 2013)

Paula’s blog: Adventures in Yoga – Notes from a Humble Yogini

Details of Sally Parkes Yoga Teacher Training can be found here:

Confessions of a Yoga Teacher

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How did you first become interested in yoga?

Yoga and spiritual practices have always appealed to me. When we introduced yoga to our timetable at the gym I worked at as a trainer fourteen years ago, it was the perfect opportunity to try it. I had been searching for something that was more philosophical and found I loved yoga instantly. I was also amazed at how much happier I felt after my first class.

by cultivating a steady yoga practice you can manage your reactions more easily when the bad stuff happens, and be in the moment to enjoy the good stuff when that happens too

How has yoga helped you in your life?

In so many ways. Physically, my lower back-ache and other sports injuries involving my knees and shoulders rectified themselves within a few months. But more importantly yoga has become the constant in my life that I can go back to at any time when things are a little crazy. I am healthier physically but I am also happier mentally, as I know by teaching and practising yoga I am doing something worthwhile. I can’t imagine ever doing anything else!

What is the greatest lesson yoga has taught you?

Acceptance, both of myself and the world around me. Good and bad stuff happens to everyone in their lifetime, but by cultivating a steady yoga practice you can manage your reactions more easily when the bad stuff happens, and be in the moment to enjoy the good stuff when that happens too.

How would you help someone to improve their practice?

Start with a gentle ten or twenty minutes of practice a day and build it from there. Regularity is the key and being kind to yourself throughout your practice is very important. Have faith that the benefits are worth the time and effort. With ongoing commitment your overall wellbeing will improve and you will have a new lease of life.

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As featured in Natural Health Magazine March 2013