Simplyhealth/BackCare Yoga Workshop

THE BASICS: Simplyhealth specialise in affordable private healthcare plans, and they seem to have a pretty decent ethos. Last Sunday, they put on a yoga workshop for lots of lovely fitness, health and lifestyle bloggers to learn about how to look after our backs and improve our postures, syncing up with the launch of their new Back Care app.

THE APP: For most of us who exercise or sit in an office all day, we back twinges are probably all part and parcel of the package. Simplyhealth have teamed up with BackCare, the UK Charity for healthier backs, to develop an app offering tips on how to cope with and monitor back aches and pains. The app is free to download, and will donate £1 to BackCare every time someone does. Lovely! Here’s a little peek:

Simply Health BackCare App

So here’s the deal- I’m not being endorsed, bribed or paid to say any of this, so I can say what I like about the app quite frankly. And I genuinely think it is a clever little piece of kit! I don’t have any problems with my back currently, but I am on the verge of becoming positively ancient and I also sit in THE MOST uncomfortable chair in the world for 9 hours a day.

I downloaded the app before the workshop and had a play around- it is easy to navigate, quite detailed in offering a way to monitor pain, and also has a section where you can choose exercises (with demo videos) if you just select the kind of twinges you are feeling. It really is a sweet little app!

THE WORKSHOP: I was excited to receive an invitation to this lovely sounding event, and so I set off in search of Dance Works Studio near Bond Street for this three hour Sunday morning sesh!

The workshop was being held in the top room of the studios, which some friendly Simplyhealth reps directed me to. I opened the door and entered a gorgeous (at least) triple height studio, and massive windows in the ceiling, flooding the whole place with light. There were a lot of other people milling about and introducing themselves to each other, and I popped on my little name badge and went over to say get chatting!

Name badgery

I met some great bloggers: Gymbags and Gladrags, Our Little Balham Life, Lucie Loves, Nancy StraughanPerfectly Polished NailsOnly In London, Lissy Runs and Bangs and a Bun to name but a few of these online ladies! We were all really happy about the workshop and receiving an invite so such a nice event. There were purple mats spread across the studio with towels and water ready for our workshop, and a few of the girls took some photos for their blogs. Note to self: take more photos!

Colin, our instructor for the morning, made sure he introduced himself to all of us individually before the workshop. He asked us to make sure we used this opportunity today to question him about anything we weren’t sure about. He encouraged us to make the most of having a teacher with oodles of experience, and it was nice to have such an opportunity.

We were asked to take our places on our mats, and after a brief group introduction, Colin asked us to all stand up and introduce ourselves to anyone we hadn’t met yet- cue a whirlwind dash around the room to say hello to everyone! As well as giving us a chance to mingle, this also helped Colin to stand back and take notice of our individual nuances when we stood up straight. Later in the workshop, he talked about his observations in relation to improving our postures.

Yoga workshop

When we came back to our mats, Colin had a 20 minute breathing exercise for us all. Sounds mad. Breathing?! We all know how to breathe, surely?! It’s kind of an essential skill to learn. Well, I tell you what- it was a pretty astounding exercise taking 20 minutes to concentrate on the one thing most of us probably take for completely for granted.

We were made aware of our body positioning on the mats beneath us, and then focused on our breathing, taking in full lungs of air instead of the shallow breaths we are all often guilty of. Colin also talked us through some simple slow stretches, and we were continually made aware of our position on the mat and within the space around us.

Awareness was key- personally it brought my mind into the moment and made me feel very “present”. Within 20 minutes the morning had ebbed away- and I hadn’t even felt like I’d had a very stressful morning when I initially arrived! Perhaps this calmness was just helping me to shed off the previous week of a cray cray diary.

We came to sitting, and shared our experiences. It seemed that a lot of us felt that we had slowed down and been helped to feel present and grounded. I for one felt so aware of my body and my place in the room.

Now we had the breathing and presence in check, it was time to work on posture and making sure we were centred and grounded. We spent the next 40 minutes or so testing out simple, gentle balances, learning how a tiny adjustment such as softening your knees by half an inch would make you distribute your weight across the soles of your feet more evenly, and improve your posture. I found that I held a lot of tension in quads when standing upright, where as a lot of people in the room mentioned they felt tension held in their back instead.

It was interesting to stop after every few balances, allowing Colin to talk us through our personal problem areas in terms of posture, and the importance of making sure we worked out what was right for us independently.

It was interesting to see how the body really does form habits when doing simple things such as breathing and standing still. Being reminded throughout the class to remain present helped to drive home the message that we should try to maintain a level of awareness about these everyday activities, in order to make sure we aren’t falling into bad or sloppy habits.

Towards the end of the class, Colin asked us if we had any individual questions, and then spent ten minutes or so taking a Q&A session about any other things we wanted to ask for posture help with.

We all left the mats and dived on the yummy sushi, fruit and sandwiches that were laid out after the yoga session- and despite the chatter, everyone commented on how lovely the class had made them feel and how it was a great way to spend a Sunday morning. And we had learned a thing or two as well- awesome!

Thanks, Simplyhealth. A great idea, a super way to meet other bloggers and an informative session about improving posture and taking some lovely deep lungfuls of early Sunday morning air!!

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