Earth2Soul

A few weeks back I had the pleasure to meet and photograph yoga teacher Jennifer Nicholas. I love photographing pregnancy and as you know, I adore shooting yoga, so when Jen mentioned in our initial correspondence that she specialises in teaching pregnancy yoga and that she, herself, was actually 33 weeks pregnant I knew that I wanted to work with her.

We were blessed with a beautiful golden morning in Hove on the day of the shoot, Jen was 35 weeks pregnant at the time and absolutely glowing. Her practice was inspiring and a wonder to capture.

These are some of my favourite images from our morning together and here is a little more about Jennifer and the work she does:

“Earth2Soul

Founded by Jennifer Nicholas

Mother, Yoga Teacher, Gardener

Based in Brighton, UK Earth2Soul helps mothers, and their families, to improve their health and wellbeing through yoga, real food and natural parenting.

”I AIM to inspire your family to cherish every day, every moment and make the most of this glorious life. Move, dance, eat well, sing, make friends, get outdoors, do whatever makes you feel alive. Appreciate nature. Slow down, relax. Be patient, be still, be silent. Be true to yourself. Love yourself and each other. Give big, happy hugs and be kind. When you do your love will overflow to those around you - making our planet a more harmonious place to live.”

For more information please visit her website: http://www.earth2soul.uk

A journey to Yin

Everybody’s journey to the yoga mat is different, as is the experience of the practice of yoga itself. Whether you like the physical aspects of strength building and stretching or the spiritual connection to yourself that it may induce, we all have our own story to tell.

My Journey to Yin Yoga was fraught with an internal battle. I liked to sweat, I liked to move and create fire in my body even when it came to Yoga. I used to be such an exercise addict, craving that sweet serotonin release that comes with a good workout. I was that person who would never sit still. So, the idea of walking into a dimly lit room with relaxing music and for a meditative practice involving sitting still in poses for three to five minutes seemed like the wrong avenue for a hyper gal like me. Then I lived through the Christchurch Earthquakes of 2010 and 2011 and everything changed. The big quakes in themselves were quite the experience but it was the thousands of aftershocks that took their toll on the body. To have constant raised levels of adrenalin, always in that fight or flight mode, resulted in toxic levels of the stress hormone cortisol in my tissues. My physical health and mental health declined rapidly. No amount of running or consumption of wine seemed to achieve a state of relaxation or equilibrium in my body that I was so desperately needing. It felt like I was surviving rather than living. Desperate to find some reprieve I let go of my assumptions of Yin and stepped on to my mat.  I finally listened to my body and I understood that I needed to go deeper. Rather than keeping busy, trying to sweep my emotions and stresses under the rug in order to get through each day, I gave myself permission to be still, to stop running, stop with the distractions, stop the numbing and allow myself to feel, truly connect to me. But perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself with my story and should explain what Yin is.  

There is Yin energy and its opposite Yang energy in everything, from the elements of fire and water to the expression of moods such as ecstasy and sobriety. It refer to the balance in life originating from the teachings Chinese Daoism. Yoga adopted the application of Yin and Yang energies. Yang yoga such as Hatha and Vinyasa draw heat into the body through the exercising of the muscles. Yin is a cooling practice that accesses the joints, tendons, ligaments and deep fascial networks (the connective tissues of the body), and even the bones stressing them passively to achieve a deep stretch in the body. 

On a physical level, the practice of holding Yin poses allows increased circulation to the joints allowing oxygen to get deep into the connective tissues which heals, rejuvenates, and energises the body, as well as achieve an improved level of flexibility. If you are looking to compliment your hot yoga practice by inviting more openness into the body you will love this practice.

But there is more to Yin than just a good stretch. It is improving the connection you have to your body on a deeper platform that can be challenging to articulate. When you sit in deep sensation during a pose and you find that edge where you are no longer in your comfort zone and suddenly your breath becomes the only important focus, you find yourself fully present in the moment. No thoughts of yesterday, projections of the future, those busy thoughts that occupy our minds from the moment we wake up to when we go to sleep and even then, our subconscious has a way of allowing our worries to penetrate our dreams. In these moments of sensation through postures, the awareness of the body takes over and you can find that blissful disconnection from everything else and a reconnection to the true you. 

There is also the releasing of the “issues in the tissues” and this is where my story ties in. The tissues of the body store our emotions. Every thought you have leads to a physical reaction of the body. You have a fright and the body releases adrenalin, you become stressed and there is that cortisol. Our bodies are very clever things, the body seeks to achieve balance (hello Yin and Yang) so if the Sympathetic Nervous System is in control (fight or flight– Yang) the Para-sympathetic Nervous System kicks in to act as the counterbalance (rest and digest - Yin). But when one system is in use more than the other the body struggles to regain the balance. The practice of Yin addresses this imbalance, enabling the release of toxins and hormones to be processed rather than being stored in the body. Of course, the science goes so much deeper than this and yes, I totally geek out on reading about what happens on a cellular level but I won’t elaborate on that for now. 

The message I’m trying to share is that Yin really did save me when I really needed it and has shaped my lifestyle choices since. Whether you are looking to manage your stress levels, find reprieve from a busy schedule and find some you time, have an emotional release or maybe you just want to condition your body to find a more open Dancers Pose. Whatever your journey may be, you are welcome to the mat. A safe space, a non-judgemental practice where you allow your breath and body guide you to a depth that suits you. 

I will be leading a Yin Yoga Workshop on Sunday 21st of May 2017 from 12.00-14.00 at Yard Yoga Forest Row.

On Display - An Art Installation

"ON DISPLAY is a deconstructed art exhibit/fashion show and commentary on the body as spectacle and society's obsession with body image. It turns a cast of diverse and extreme bodies into a sculpture court where the performers are the sculptures. Members of the disability, performance and fashion worlds are often stared at and objectified in their daily lives. ON DISPLAY began as a simple human sculpture court and is now a movement, a growing portfolio of works that explore and demonstrate inclusion through art."

Founded by Heidi Latsky Dance, ON DISPLAY is an event that took place all over the planet and I was honoured to be involved with performance in Brighton. I myself was one of the performers for the first installation. It was a daunting experience. To show up wearing no makeup, no jewellery, no use of fashion to adorn me, took me out of my comfort zone and into what can only be expressed as an experience of personal growth. It was just me on display, bearing all my scars, the raw version of myself, inviting people to come close and inspect me and my glorious imperfections. I had to stand like a statue for half an hour having people come up to my face trying to distract me (I even got kissed on the lips) but I remained expressionless and walked away from the experience feeling truly humbled. 

For the second installation I decided to not perform but to capture my fellow artists. Here are the photographs of these inspiring subjects. 

For more information please visit http://heidilatskydance.com/on-display-1/It

Special thanks to BA and Yoga in the Lanes http://yogainthelanes.com for asking me to be apart of this powerful project.

The Ralston Method

After I completed my teacher training in Bali I returned to New Zealand and really wanted to find a mentor to guide me, not only in my personal practice, but to help me to develop as a teacher. I discovered the studio Urban Ashram in Ponsonby and it felt like coming home. Owned and operated by Nikki Ralston I found everything I was looking for, an inspirational teacher, a gorgeous studio to practice in, a community of gorgeous Yogi's and a Teacher Development Program that allowed me to follow my dream and teach full time upon moving back to the UK. 

Here is a photo shoot we did together just before I left New Zealand. We planned for a two hour session but had so much fun we ended up spending the whole morning at the beach........yeah that's what happens when I'm inspired! Loved everything about this shoot!

For more information on Nikki's teacher immersions and the Ralston Method please check out: http://www.theralstonmethod.com   http://www.urbanashram.co.nz