• On practising with kindness

    On practising with kindness

    Words by Kat Basquill

    My name is Kat, and I teach Mandala Vinyasa on Sundays.  Mandala is a strong and graceful flow spiralling 360o round the mat.  Its roots come from Shamanic principles; we work with a daily element from the Mayan Calendar, and base our movements around the characteristics of each element.  We work deeply with the subtle body; each element has a Chakra and set of meridians linked, so Mandala can be profound and healing when practiced with love.

    Ashtanga Yoga is made up of eight ‘limbs’, only one of which is the physical practice.  One of the limbs contains the wonderful principle of ‘Ahimsa’, meaning ‘non-harm’.  As I first learned the concept of Ahimsa, we were given the example of Vegetarianism as well as not participating in violence.  I started to think more deeply about applying this concept into my practice and teaching, which started to translate into ‘practice with kindness’.

    We all have our areas of tension, of tightness and resistance.  Throughout the day, our energy levels grow and fade.  Sometimes a pose can feel delicious, whilst other times it is painful.  By practicing with kindness, we keep observing ourselves.  We are accepting if there is too much resistance to take a certain expression of a pose.  We can acknowledge that some poses come and go.  If you push into resistance, or against your energy, it may do you more harm than good.

    In my example, I held a pose I found was wonderful in my Dharma class after ninety minutes of flowing.  With a cold body… not so much.  I put my body under so much pressure that I damaged it.

    So I invite you to read your energy and how YOU feel when practicing, rather than diving into expectation and comparison.  Please, rest if you need rest.  Skip a Vinyasa; no one will punish you.  Or soar into full expression if it feels right for you.  Just make sure you work in a way that nourishes yourself.  Breathe in a way that gives you warmth, energy and calmness.  This is your practice, and yours alone.  Mandala Vinyasa can be a challenging and vigorous flow class.  There are options for arm balances and inversions – and they all remain optional.

    I am there to guide you, but you make your own choices.  Choose kindness.

    Kat is teaching a New Years Intention Setting Workshop on January 7th, 2-4pm.

    This will be a Fire Mandala.  We will set gentle intentions for the New Year, and use the heat generated to energise these whilst burning away what we no longer wish to hold on to.  The Mandala will be followed by deep Yin stretches, each corresponding to an element that we call upon to support us and bring balance.

    There will be tasty treats, essential oils, and some live music from the handpan.

    For more information or to book, please contact Kat 07905 133143 /

  • Yoga Hike

    Yoga Hike

    Gillian Evans leads a monthly Yoga Hike from the Mansion. There’s a story behind these, as Gillian explains...

    When I was in my twenties, I went trekking in the Himalayas. My friend and I hiked a two-week section of the Annapurna Circuit. The first ten days of the trek were up-hill steeply all the way, and for hours on end, because we had to walk all day to make sure that we reached the next village where we would spend the night in a villager’s lodging in return for a few American dollars. What amazed us, as we tried desperately to acclimatise to the altitude, and long steep up-hill walks, was that we were not fit, and had no stamina at all - it was hard hard going relieved only by the spectacular mountain scenery.

    Yet, despite this, we noticed in amazement that the local Nepali people were often walking easefully up and down the mountain paths, with extremely heavy loads on their backs. Some of the men were porters, running up and down the mountain in bare feet, with baskets on their backs transporting heavy loads – grinning cheerfully as they passed us by. We were so frustrated with own rate of progress that we were glad to be stopped one day by one of these men who could speak English and taught us how to walk and breathe. After that everything changed and I have never forgotten the lesson he taught me, and I endeavour to share it with others whenever I get the chance.

    The lesson was that when you are walking (or even running, which is more challenging but equally amazing) you should walk with your mouth closed and breathe through the nose only. This then means that the breath regulates the heart-beat, and you move at the pace your heart can manage, which then makes the walk itself manageable, enjoyable and physically sustainable. It also means that you become aware of your breath, and how the breath deepens and evens out as you walk. It also means that you can’t walk and talk, which is a waste of energy, but something else happens too – when you walk without talking to your companion/s, you start to go deeper into your own experience, noticing how the breath calms the busy mind by anchoring it in the body. You begin to notice your surroundings more, and as you begin to lose the urge to natter incessantly about who knows what, your perceptual experience enhances as you start to listen to the sounds around you, really see the environment you are walking through, smell the air and the earth and notice the fullness of the scenery.  You also start to learn the art of companionship in a new way, walking along someone without having to talk, noticing and enjoying their presence without having to constantly talk, finding out what’s on your own mind and in your own heart, as you walk, without having to necessarily talk about your experience.

    A lot about this walking-to-breathe lesson reminds me of the expanded state of awareness that the practice of yoga brings about. Through the growing awareness of the relationship between the breath and the experience of being in the body, a slowly changing experience arises of what it means to be in the world. That is why I decided to add a yoga hike to my class offerings at Studio Kooks in the beautiful surroundings of Beckenham Place Park. The park offers a beautiful environment for walking, and I wanted to share the experience of walking in silence with regulated breathing, as part of the exploration of what yoga has to offer. Everyone has a different personal experience on the walk and there is nothing prescriptive about it,  just a chance to privately explore how it feels.

    I donate the proceeds of each walk (£5 per person) to the charity PAPYRUS which works to prevent youth suicide, because I lost my nephew to suicide in 2013, and youth suicide is now the biggest cause of death among young people in the UK under the age of 35. This is a terrible tragedy. It is also a national crisis. We need to do much more to raise awareness about mental health issues, and to explore how we can live more compassionately along side and supporting each other especially in the urban environment. I genuinely think yoga can play a part in supporting the challenge we all face to understand how best to live on the planet in the 21st Century. So, do join a yoga class, and join me on Saturday 9th December at 10.15am (meet in front of the Mansion café) and on the first Saturday of each month for a yoga hike.


  • What is FYND? The face behind #FYNDyourself

    What is FYND? The face behind #FYNDyourself

    Fitness . Yoga . Neurological . Development.

    As a specialist neurological physiotherapist and yoga enthusiast Emma Lewis’s passion for anything and everything ‘movement’ has led her develop FYND. Combining Western science and ideas with Eastern observations and practices, FYND provides a truly holistic and accessible approach to rehabilitation and health promotion.  Emma runs two classes at Studio Kooks on a Sunday, pregnancy yoga and slow flow yoga, but watch out for workshops and events in the new year exploring FYND’s approach; truly accessible activity for all.

    No Judgment. Now Boundaries. No Limits.

    FYND’s website is live (although undergoing continued development) so take a look to find out more about FYND, classes and specialist services.

    Emma has also recently taken to gardening and tendering to her newly acquired allotment so help her out with any tips and look forward to sharing the fruits of her first harvest!

  • The unexpected benefits of growing a new class

    The unexpected benefits of growing a new class

    Words by Gillian Evans

    Starting a new Saturday early morning class over the summer has given me a chance to find my feet at Studio Kooks, but I did not anticipate the unexpected benefit of beginning to slowly grow a new class.

    Having just one student in the first classes of August meant that I had the opportunity, for the first time, to teach alignment-based hatha yoga in a one-to-one setting. This proved to be a humbling and rewarding experience, because the chance to work with one student, making hands-on adjustment in almost every pose, for a 90 minute class, as well as providing the space for that student to go safely and deeply into prolonged breath work, made possible a level of emotional change and physical awareness for that person that might not be quite so easy to achieve in a larger, group class.

    I hadn't imagined that I would find a private class to be such a potentially profound experience, and I definitely appreciate more than ever now that growing a class slowly over time, with just a few students to start with, has positive advantages. There is the chance to begin to get to know more and understand something important about who the students in the class are, to know them by name, to appreciate their particular physical and personal circumstances and to then be able to adapt adjustments and class sequences to their needs.

    Every Saturday morning, unlocking The Old Library again, I feel anew the thrill of being able to teach yoga in such a personal way in such a beautiful space. It really does feel like a privilege, and the community ethos of The Mansion project adds a real sense of being at the beginning of something wonderful that is just starting to unfold. After one class, I went home with home-grown cucumbers and courgettes from the Community Garden for my lunch; after another I had a long relaxing walk in the surrounding parklands with Skye, my beloved border collie, and last week I stopped at the cafe for a bacon sarnie and a cup of tea, and just took a pew at the park benches, drinking in the view.

    In time, as more people come to discover that Beckenham Place Park is open for business, and just beautiful, the yoga classes will grow, and more students will arrive, which I am looking forward to, but it has been lovely to have this summer time to hold the space and set the intention for a small group of people to discover the potential of alignment-based hatha yoga.

    Gillian teaches 'Rise & Shine' Hatha Yoga 8.15-9.45pm on Saturdays

    Skye does not yet have any classes on the timetable...

  • Connecting through Yoga

    Connecting through Yoga

    Words by Claire Saunders

    If you have ever been in a yoga class for beginners, you probably know that the word “yoga” is often translated as “to yoke” - i.e. to bring together, or to unite.   For me, in my yoga practice and in my classes, this translates as connection.   Connection is essential to us as human beings - we need to be in community with each other to thrive and in our modern world,  it’s so easy to feel disconnected and separate.   Technology and social media appears to give us the means to get connected with each other but in reality creates disconnection.  Have you ever met up with a friend who spent the whole time staring at their phone?   Have you ever been that friend? I know I have!

    In it’s simplest form, yoga enables us to connect more deeply with our breath, which brings our attention to our internal world instead of being pulled out by a screen.  Connecting with our bodies, as we align into shapes and movements on the mat grounds us and brings us back to our essence - the heart.  When we connect breath, body, and heart on the mat, we connect more deeply with the world at large.  Humans are social animals and this connecting with ourselves and each other makes us stronger and more healthy.   In my Anusara class, we connect heart, breath and alignment in a soulful flow that leaves you feeling grounded, connected, and ultimately more free.  In Anusara, the first principle is to Open to Grace - this means that in every pose we check our foundation, take a settling breath to connect with ourselves, then open to something greater than us.  Krishna Das says “Grace brings light to where there is darkness, wakes us from our sleep and moves obstacles from our path”.

    Children are inherently free - they love to move, play and explore what their bodies can do.  On September 10th I’m offering a special Yoga Playground - Family Workshop where you can experience yoga in partnership with your children.  By exploring and playing together, and getting creative on the mat, you can deepen your connection with your child and have fun at the same time.  You can expect a riotous ride of chaos along with ways of exploring breath, affirmations, and sweet togetherness.   Advance booking is essential.  I do hope you will come and join the fun!

    Click here to book

    Claire teaches Anusara Yoga 6.00-7.00pm on Wednesdays

  • Mum & Baby Yoga with Laura Igiehon in collaboration with Phoenix Community Housing

    Mum & Baby Yoga with Laura Igiehon in collaboration with Phoenix Community Housing

    Laura Igiehon (Jelly Babies Massage) is collaborating with Phoenix Community Housing to provide a special Mum & Baby Yoga course at Studio Kooks.  Laura says, of the programme,

    I'm delighted to have Phoenix Community Housing sponsoring some of my mum and baby classes as part of their wonderful Community Chest initiative. It means that I can offer Baby Massage and Mum and Baby Yoga courses to Phoenix residents completely free of charge.  The Phoenix Communty Chest fund priorities that I'm targeting are Health and Wellbeing and Community Cohesion and the gorgeous Studio Kooks is the perfect venue to host my courses.

    The courses are relaxed and welcoming, the aim is to enhance your special bond with your baby through nurturing touch and gentle movements and also to make strong friendship bonds with other local families. Mums learn techniques to relax and calm their babies, aide digestion, relieve Colic and constipation and promote deeper sleep. They will learn how to nurture a deeper understanding of their baby by following their cues and responding to their needs. These simple techniques can be very empowering for new mums and help to relieve the symptoms associated with post natal depression.

    Laura teaches Mum & Baby Yoga 12.30-1.30pm on Tuesdays

  • The Fruits of Yoga

    The Fruits of Yoga

    words by Amanda Meaden

    There are many reasons why people practice yoga.  Most of these reasons come under the heading of ‘personal development’ - perhaps we want to be able to relax, maybe we want to be more flexible, thinner, fitter, whatever it is, we want to change and with yoga positive change is certainly possible, which is a wonderful thing.

    As we set our goals, however, it’s worth bearing in mind one key factor.  We can only ever be ourselves. We may be able to become a more relaxed, more flexible, thinner, fitter version of ourselves, but we cannot be someone else. Ever. Through yoga practice we gradually come to learn about ourselves, about our nature, our strengths, our weaknesses, where there are gaps in our knowledge and understanding. Some aspects of ourselves we can change, others we must accept as we move into the fullness of our potential.

    To put it another way, if you are a peach, be a peach. Be the best most unctuous, most juicy, peachiest peach you can be, but don’t try to be a banana.

    Amanda teaches Yoga for Breath, Mind & Body 10.30-11.30am on Thursdays

  • Pregnancy, birth and post-pregnancy - a special and transformational time for mothers and babies

    Pregnancy, birth and post-pregnancy - a special and transformational time for mothers and babies

    words by Laura Swann

    Pregnancy, birth and post-pregnancy is a uniquely special and transformational time for mothers and babies. It is of significant importance in a woman’s evolution. In a relatively short period, life will change in a beautiful and profound way. Whether you are a seasoned yogi or a complete beginner, a targeted pregnancy class offers a tailored focus for a pregnant woman’s body-mind and specifically supports a woman throughout this process with time to relax, de-stress and connect to her baby and body.

    Pregnancy can be a time that heralds uncertainty, with an overwhelming amount of information on offer. It can also be challenging to connect to ones own expansion in a culture so focussed on fitting a certain mould. Its the perfect time to connect to the female body with gratitude as we witness our power and simultaneous softness. It is not unusual to initially sense a real disconnect in our breath patterns as we navigate connecting to abdominal breathing. Prior to pregnancy if we have been chronically retaining breath or breathing only into the upper body - even unconsciously as a result of our conditioning to not soften our bellies - the result is that physiologically we are hampering our vital ability to breathe well using our full body (as so beautifully observed in an infant).

    The pregnancy yoga class aims to hold space for a woman to find her own unique way and explore all her feelings in an unbiased, safe and nurturing place. Somewhere she can connect to her body and feel empowered in it as well as in her own choices. This helps cultivate a strong sense of awareness, encouraging a woman to stay present and focussed throughout pregnancy; as well as offering a practical toolkit of movements and breath practices to use throughout the labour process. As a deep personal exploration with a very practical approach, it is focussed on the anatomy of the pelvis and abdomen in holistic relationship to the rest of the system as it expands to welcome new life. Deeply rooted in current scientific research with a multi-faceted and integrated approach.

    Pregnancy yoga does not have to be just for mums to be - longer workshops explore labour circuits and breathing practices with birth partners so that everyone can learn how to better support the mother in her incredible process of bringing her baby into the world. Many women have discovered yoga during pregnancy and never looked back. And what could be a more beautiful way of beginning a practice of cultivating awareness of the self and surrendering to your own deep intuition and wisdom. It also provides a great space to connect to other pregnant women and share, maybe even blossom a new friendship. Pregnancy yoga can serve as an important catalyst supporting a woman’s health and well being well beyond the process of childbirth and throughout her whole life cycle.

    Learn breathing techniques and movements to use in preparation and throughout the stages of labour

    Support your evolving body through the beautiful journey from womanhood to motherhood

    Making connection and bonding with your baby

    Find ease and release tension from mind and body

    Empowering you to hold your own space

    Deep rest and relaxation

    Nurturing a space for the process of creation

    For the month of June you may trial pregnancy yoga at Studio Kooks for a one-off £8 to come and see just how special this hour is. If you choose to make it a weekly occurrence regular drop-ins are £10 with a 6 class pass currently offered at £55. Suitable from 14 weeks prenatally.

    Laura teaches Pregnancy Yoga 5.45-6.45pm on Thursdays

  • Breathe to relax

    Breathe to relax

    words by Lisa Clark

    Isn't it wonderful to watch a baby peaceful! Have you noticed the soft rise and fall of a baby's belly as they breathe? We lose this primal way of breathing as we age and 'suck it in' or allow the stresses of life to restrict ourselves to chest breathing. Deep belly breathing is something I draw my students attention to in savasana (corpse pose), at the end of my mindful vinyasa flow class, during relaxation. I like to set the scene with tranquil music, blankets a head massage and lavender eye pillows. With a gentle dialogue to include inviting the awareness of the breath towards deep belly breathing.

    So now for the 'why' belly breathing, otherwise known as diaphragmatic breathing. One of the amazing benefits of belly breathing is its ability to help you relax - almost immediately. The soft rise and fall of the belly actually massages the biggest nerve in our system, the vagus nerve. This in turn helps take us out of our more stressful 'fight or flight' mode and into our more relaxed 'rest and digest' mode. Our nervous system, being still connected to this primal response stress mode, of 'fight or flight' was needed to help us get up and run from a sabre tooth tiger and is still needed at times in our modern life. But our systems don't recognise the difference between the stresses that do and don't need to have us in 'fight or flight' mode. Therefore issues related to money woes, traffic jams, job or relationship problems keep us switched on in this unnecessary mode for too long. The consequence to our health can include problems such as high blood pressure, suppressed immune system, anxiety and depression.

    We can't avoid all sources of stress in our lives, but developing healthier ways of responding to them through practices such as yoga and regulating the breath can be profound. Deeper abdominal breathing slows the heartbeat and lowers blood pressure, taking us away from the negative health issues. I can't think of a better reason to get on the mat, practice yoga and breathe very deeply.....wonderful!

    Lisa teaches Vinyasa Flow Yoga 9.30-11.00 on Monday mornings.

  • Restorative Yoga

    words by Damaris Booth

    What is Restorative Yoga?
    Restorative yoga evolved from the teachings of BKS Iyengar and is suitable for everyone regardless of yoga style or level.

    Poses are held for longer lengths of time (up to 15mins) with the body fully supported on bolsters and blankets to ensure comfort and ease. Gentle stretches and breath awareness help to release tension and allow your body and mind to deeply relax.
    Why practice it?
    Stress is prevalent in modern day living and while a little can be beneficial too much can eventually lead to illness and disease. Stress is the most common cause of long-term absence from work in the UK. With busier lives, greater pressures and feelings of time escaping us, our health and happiness can often be compromised.
    Restorative yoga helps to tip the balance back to centre. It soothes and calms the nervous system, switching it over to the ‘rest and digest’ mode essential for promoting maintenance and repair in the body. It enables us to enter a state of ‘being’ rather than ‘doing’, so we can begin to live more consciously.
    Taking time from the busyness of life to find moments of stillness and quietude can reap huge benefits for your health and wellbeing.

    ​Come and see for yourself!

    Damaris teaches Restorative Yoga 7.00-8.15pm on Friday evenings