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YOGA PHOTOGRAMS SERIES

Florence Lefebvre

// EXHIBITION BY ROB AND NICK CARTER:
27TH SEPTEMBER - 25 NOVEMBER 2017

The pictures you can see above are called photograms.
"A photogram is a photographic image made without a camera by placing objects directly onto the surface of a light-sensitive material such as photographic and then exposing it to light. The usual result is a negative shadow image that shows variations in tone that depends upon the transparency of the objects used." (definition by Wikipédia)

The talented couple Rob and Nick Carter have been working on a series of yoga photograms and I am honoured to have been chosen as one of their models for this project. I was almost 3 months pregnant at the time and was sadly not able to come back for another session but this was a real pleasure and I am very proud of the 4 shots that came out of it as there was no second chance.
They have not been published yet but keep an eye out for them...!

You can see more photograms by following @yogaphotograms on Instagram and @robandnick.

To see the whole project laid under your very eyes, please come to their exhibition which will take place from 27th September until 25th November 2017:
5A Bathurst Street
London

W2 2SD

HEALTHY MOTHERHOOD: MUM AND BABY SPECIAL BOND

Florence Lefebvre

In the days, weeks and months following the birth of your baby, you will learn to selflessly care for another being whom you carried in your womb and brought into the world. And be warned, you will feel love like you have never experienced it before! For mums suffering from postnatal depression, this deep love might not be immediate but with time and the help of the right prescribed medication for a given period, your hormones will be in a state of balance again and that love will hit you too!

We are wired to love and nurture our child and science tells us how by pointing to the hormone oxytocin, "the love or trust hormone". You would have heard of it before as it also plays a huge part in labour by triggering the uterus to contract.

Oxytocin is a chemical messenger released in the brain mainly in response to social contact. It promotes bonding patterns and creates a desire for further contact with the people triggering it.

You are likely to have been encouraged during your pregnancy to make time for skin-to-skin contact as soon as your baby is born and that is because skin-to-skin contact enhances the release of oxytocin in the mother which can then be passed on to her baby through breastmilk. Babies also produce their own oxytocin in response to nursing hence the notion that breastfeeding helps bonding.

Beyond the scientific explanation, the love of a mother for her child is incredible in its purity. Of course, there will be days when you feel tired and perhaps have less patience for you baby but as a whole, that love is truly selfless and unconditional.

For your newborn, everything is so different from her life in utero - and therefore perhaps a little scary too - ! She already knows your voice and smell but will need reassurance through touch and closeness. As her mother, you will be her main portal to the world for at least the first few months of her life and your perception of it will be passed on to her which is no small responsibility.

Time will fly quickly so enjoy these very precious moments bonding with your baby!
Smell your baby's hair (or head ;-)), massage her little limbs when applying body moisturiser, tickle her toes, blow raspberries on her belly, play music, sing, dance, smile, pull faces, talk to your baby looking into her eyes (and don't feel like you have to baby talk!), describe what you are doing when you have the energy and when it is all too much and you need a rest and a cuddle, nap with your baby (one of my favourites!).

What the general wisdoms holds is true: the love of a mother for her child really knows no bounds!

HEALTHY MOTHERHOOD: IMMEDIATE POSTPARTUM

Florence Lefebvre

Following my Healthy Pregnancy Series which I really enjoyed researching and writing, I am now undertaking a natural progression with this first blog in the Healthy Motherhood Series.

Your little one has now made his/her entrance into the world and you are yourself born as a mother, what a miraculous thing!

The focus is often on the child as he/she is understandably a source of wonder but both the postpartum mother and child need to be equally nurtured. I have to say that I had massively underestimated how a mother can feel in the few days and weeks after giving birth both physically and emotionally.

- YOU made it happen!
The postpartum mother might have to deal with the disappointment of not having been able to have the birth she wished for. I can’t say enough that no matter how your baby was born - C-section, forceps or natural birth - you did give birth to that child, lady! Give yourself credit even if you received some help. The most important thing is that you and your child have finally met and are well.

- Be kind to your body
Your body has been through a trauma in the etymological sense. The Greek word trauma means “wound”, so consider yourself a patient: your body has some healing to do. There is therefore no need for you to rush into “getting back to normal”, whatever that means for you. 
Among other things coming to mind is your pre-pregnancy fitness level. Rushing into doing exercise could lead to the exact opposite result, extending the duration of the healing process.

One example is doing sit-ups and crunches before being discharged by your GP (generally at 6 weeks postpartum or 8 weeks if you had a C-section). Your pelvic floor muscles have been stretched and weakened, and in extreme cases, if starting exercise too early, you could end up with a prolapse. Similarly, if you have separated stomach muscles (or diastasis recti), sit-ups, crunches and planks could aggravate the separation. Abdominal breathing and some gentle Pilates exercises such as pelvic tilts lying on your back with your knees bent are appropriate though. The key words here are “take it slow!”.

- Rest, rest… and rest!
To help you deal with the emotional and physical ups and downs, rest as much as you can. You might have heard this quote before: “The bridge between despair and hope is a good night sleep.” (E. Cossman) While you won’t be having a good night sleep per se for a little while, try to rest or sleep while your baby sleeps. That means taking naps several times a day. You will be amazed at the difference 20 minutes here and there makes. I wondered a few times how I managed to be remotely functional over those first postpartum weeks despite what seemed to be little sleep at night but I did take regular naps during the day which all added up to a decent amount of rest.

- Healthy eating
Along with rest, food is essential in assisting your recovery.
Food is absorbed by your body and becomes you so make sure you eat wholesome fresh food. Think soups, dahls, stews, salads, complex carbohydrates (such as quinoa, amaranth and millet) and fibres. Nothing out of the ordinary, simply healthy flavoursome eating! 

About 3 weeks before my due date, I started cooking regularly and in bigger quantities, freezing extra portions that certainly came in handy in the early days of postpartum. For inspiration, I can’t recommend enough the Hemsley + Hemsley cook books. Their first one The Art of Eating Well was such a success that they published a second one last February entitled Good + Simple. Healthy delicious nutritious food, just what the doctor ordered!

- Your support team
Both you and your partner will be able to do with some support, emotionally, physically and practically! Ladies, let your partner change most the nappies over the first couple of weeks (isn’t it what parental leave is for?! ;-)) and don’t feel bad about it! 

Your partner will feel pretty tired or overwhelmed too but you have to deal with not only less hours of sleep, you are also on the mend after a physical trauma. I know I keep repeating it but it is important to remind yourself that you have a whole lot more on your plate.

Saying that, both you and your partner will need the support of your close friends and family. My husband and I needed to talk about the birth itself and it was great to share our experience with our loved ones. Talking to friends who were several times mum was for me of great help and insight. I am grateful to them for being so open and bringing some sense of humour into the mix!

- Visits
While you will probably not feel like going out for a week or even two, you might like having some company every now and then
Word of caution: having too many visitors in a day can leave you even more exhausted so please make sure you don’t overstretch yourself. Oh and during those visits, it is more than ok not to play hostess, you are a patient! Let your partner, or even better, your family and friends be in charge of serving teas and coffees and don’t hesitate to leave the room if you need to have a lie down.

We made the mistake of having a kind of open day for our friends to pop in about 8 days after our daughter’s birth and ended up having non-stop visitors from 11am until 7pm… Needless to say I was a total wreck by the end of the day!

- Patience and yet more patience
Patience will be your most precious tool. Patience towards yourself, your partner and your baby. Give yourself time to get to grip with motherhood.
Trust that your baby will start crying less and less as he/she gets accustomed to his/her new environment and gets to know you.
Be patient with your partner who might struggle a little with the new dynamic and accept that your body needs time to heal sufficiently before you can resume some of your usual activities.

Rest, heal and get stronger by the day, new mamas! :-)

If you would like to get in touch, please drop me a line at floyoga.mail@gmail.com. I am always happy to listen and share the little that I have learnt 4 months into the journey of motherhood!

*More in my next blog in the Healthy Motherhood series: “Mum and Baby Special Bond”.

ON CHOOSING A YOGA RETREAT

Florence Lefebvre

This is it, this year, you are going to do it: you have finally decided to treat yourself to a yoga retreat. Congratulations! And so the search for the ideal retreat begins… and there are many to choose from. So many in fact that the process of picking a retreat could become a relatively stressful process. Well, it does not have to be! 

If you ask yourself the right questions from the start, you will be able to significantly narrow down your options and in doing so, realise what it is that you are actively seeking by going away in such a setting.

Here are a few questions worth pondering on:

- Are you looking for a “yoga retreat” or a “yoga holiday”? 
By that I mean, beyond the strict terminology - I use the terms “yoga retreat” myself when advertising but strictly speaking, there are "yoga holidays" -, are you looking for regimented days with a specific programme throughout your stay or would you rather have some free time between classes, maybe even a day off to explore your surroundings?

Some retreats offer morning and evening sessions and the rest of the time free, while others offer a full immersion with not only a physical yoga practice but also some chanting (or kirtan), pranayama (breathing practices) and meditation sessions as well as satsang (literally “sitting with the truth”) in which specific aspects of yoga will be discussed such as the sutras, the yamas and niyamas, etc.

- Is there a style of yoga you particularly like?
If you love Vinyasa Flow , make sure that it is what you will get. Even when the retreat is organised by a company (such as Yoga On a Shoestring, Reclaim Yourself ***), you should be able to find a little biography of the teacher who will be taking the classes and his or her style. Which actually brings up the next question:

- Are there teachers you particularly like?
If you are able to attend their classes, you can enquire directly with them. They often have flyers available at the centres they teach at. If they do not hold retreats themselves, they should be able to recommend a fellow yoga teacher with a similar style.
You could also look for the lineage of your favourite teachers and with some Google magic, you will be able to gather information and be one step closer to finding a suitable retreat with a teacher who is likely to tick the right boxes.

- Is there a specific country you would like to travel to?
Location, location? Where the retreat is held might be more important to you than the teacher taking it or the style being taught.

- How much time do you have? And when do you have it?
Time is an important factor. If you can’t take a whole week off, you could still look into weekend long retreats, generally 3 or 4 nights. The timing of when you can take your leave will also determine what kind of retreats you can attend. Retreats on offer when it is winter in our side of the world are likely to lead you to Asia: India, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Bali among others. There are also winter retreats combining skiing or snowboarding with yoga but there are generally less to choose from.

- What is your budget?
You can find anything from £500 for a week long retreat to several £1,000 depending on the destination and level of luxury of the accommodation provided. Almost all retreats do not include flight tickets. Some include transfers, full board while others do not. Make sure you check what is included and what is not to avoid unpleasant surprises and possible stress!

Plan a budget for a single room if you would like to preserve some privacy and are not keen on sharing a bathroom with someone you have never met before. Rooms advertised as shared can imply two people or more. Check with your teacher or the company if you are unsure.

- Are you a foodie?
A yoga holiday will often be less strict when it comes to the food and beverages provided. Wine, coffee will generally be available which won’t be the case in a more immersive retreat. As you would expect, most retreats follow the precept of ahimsa or non-violence and provide vegetarian meals. It is especially worth enquiring about the food if you have any specific dietary requirements.

- What is the cancellation policy?
Retreats are often booked several months in advance. Check the cancellation policy to see if you would be able to get a refund should you need to cancel your stay. Most likely, your teacher or company won’t be able to give you the full fee back unless they manage to fill your space. Some will offer to refund part of the fee while others have a strict cancellation policy and will not give any refund.

Here you go, yogis: happy searching and more importantly finding the retreat that is right for you! Luckily there will be more than one and who knows, you might be able to go to more than one this year…

**No retreat on offer this year on this website as my daughter Nina is only 3-months and I need to shape up a bit (read "a lot") but I will definitely hold some in the future. They will be advertised in the Events Tab.

*** I quoted Yoga On a Shoestring and Reclaim Yourself solely because I heard of them and know some teachers who work for these companies and whom I like. I have not experienced any of these retreats though and this therefore does not constitute a recommendation on my part.

 

 

A POEM BY RUMI

Florence Lefebvre

§§
You may be proud and conceited but
you cannot impress the sun by flirting.
Stop walking in your own shadow
wallowing in your foolish thoughts.

Raise your head, look at the sun, walk
among the flowers, become a human being.
Do not dwell in darkness like a night bird
prey for the monsters of your imagination.
Get up and seek the light, look toward the sun.

§§

HEALTHY PREGNANCY : ANXIETY & FEARS

Florence Lefebvre

 

Pregnancy can be both a wonderful and terrifying process.

For years, you probably focussed on NOT being pregnant and on establishing your professional life while enjoying your freedom and independence. Even if you have wished for and mindfully planned your pregnancy, part of you might still be struggling with the reality of it.

You might start thinking about all the changes that will need to be implemented practically and financially: Until when shall I keep working? Will my absence hold my career back? What kind of financial help will I be getting? What do we need to get for the baby? Will I be able to get back to my pre-pregnancy body and fitness level? And the list of questions goes on and on.

On an emotional level, you might wonder how the birth itself will affect you and how the arrival of the baby will impact on your relationship with your partner and friends. 

What you can you do to alleviate anxiety and fears

- While all the questions above are more than legitimate, as always when big changes are coming your way, the best course of action is to take it one step at a time. No need to see the whole wood, focus on the tree that is right there in front of you, it is more than enough. And may I say, it will probably save you some cash too…! It is so easy to buy all those unnecessary baby accessories in order to feel more prepared for instance. Bottom line is: you do not know what your baby will like so wait and see. After all, you can always order online when or if the need arises!

- I found subscribing to the NHS Newsletters very helpful and reassuring.
They guide you every step of the way, gently, week by week, during your pregnancy but also postpartum, helping you care for your baby and yourself.

- Maintaining a certain level of physical activity during your pregnancy, without overdoing it, will help you feel balanced, healthy and strong.
// Scroll down to see my Two Part Blogs on Mobility and Strength //

- This being a yoga blog, I cannot not mention and emphasise enough the role that yoga has to play in a healthy pregnancy. Yoga in general prepares you for life’s changes and challenges, reminds you to focus on the present moment, let go of what is no longer relevant to you, free yourself from expectations and trust a higher principle. Physical benefits aside, meditation and breath work will help you feel calmer and more centered.

- Attending pregnancy yoga classes specifically tailored to accommodate your growing bump not only brings a positive state of mind and prepares you for your labour and birth, it also connects you with other mothers-to-be who share a similar interest beyond the pregnancy itself and its timing. Plugging into a network early on proves invaluable postpartum. 

- While pregnant, the sessions can allow you to share your experiences with fellow pregnant women living locally, meaning that once you baby gets here, you are likely to already have a support group in place. The sisterhood of mothers is truly wonderful and you might find that friendships grow pretty quickly!

I hope this blog will contribute to lift some of that knot-in-the-stomach/overthinking mind feeling. Remind yourself to take baby steps into the world of motherhood and trust that you have what it takes to do this!

And here it is: my last blog in the Healthy Pregnancy Blog Series unless I receive requests on your part. So let me wish you a serene and joyful pregnancy, mamas, and see you on the other side in my Healthy Motherhood Blog Series :-)

An Unwanted Pregnancy

Florence Lefebvre

In my previous blogs in the Healthy Pregnancy series, I wrote on pregnancy as being a happy, a relatively complication-free event and shared with you a range of exercises as well as some basic principles on the food front to help maintain your well-being. But it also seems relevant to say something, however brief, in the event of an unwanted pregnancy.

Each woman’s set of circumstances is unique to her and ultimately, the decision on what course of action to adopt should be hers and hers only. It is not to mean that her partner, family and friends will not help inform this decision but she will be the one accepting or declining the consequences and responsibilities of giving birth to and caring for a child. 

Some women will chose to go ahead with their pregnancy despite their initial reluctance because of their personal set of values or religious beliefs while some women will chose to end their pregnancy for various possible reasons such as not feeling ready for motherhood, a noncommittal or absent partner and not wanting to do it alone, or not having a structure in place deemed stable enough. 

We all know someone - a friend, a relative, you - who found herself walking one day into hospital to get an abortion. It is a hugely controversial debate which I won’t go into. I will just say that it is not an experience that any woman would ever wish to go through. 
The shock to the mind, body and spirit is intensely real and it is very important to get sufficient support.

If you are the one going through such a challenging time in your life, guilt, resentment, anger, doubt, sadness, despair and a sense of relief will probably keep taking turn in your mind and heart for a while. 

When feeling overwhelmed with any of these emotions, remind yourself to be kind and compassionate towards yourself. No one is entitled to judge you - we have all found ourselves at cross-roads before. Allow yourself plenty of time to process what happened and ultimately forgive yourself, learning to trust life/the universe - or whatever you feel comfortable calling it - all over again.

 

HEALTHY PREGNANCY: WHAT TO EAT...?!

Florence Lefebvre

When it comes to food in general, we are bombarded by various fads and a lot of information, quite a lot of it contradicting one another even. In this context, it is hardly surprising that pregnant women are prone to feeling somewhat anxious about making the right choices for their growing baby and themselves.

There are indeed certain foods that your GP and/or midwife will advise you to avoid for the duration of your pregnancy but eating does not need to become complicated and a source of stress during that time. In fact, if you have been eating healthily before your pregnancy, you will probably hardly notice the difference!

The following recommendations are mainly based on the NHS guidelines.

- Mostly say goodbye to alcohol but don't deny yourself a little glass of wine or bubbly if the occasion arises. Good news is that you will probably not be in the mood to drink much anyway.

- Cut down or out completely your caffeine intake, meaning coffee but also teas that are not herbal. If you would like to find a substitute, chicory is as close to a healthy coffee as it will get. It is not to everyone's taste but I thought it worth mentioning nonetheless. After all, you never know! As for black tea lovers, check out Roboois, no longer a well-guarded secret. It tastes delicious with milk or some lemon juice and is totally caffeine-free! 
Chocolate also contains caffeine so enjoy it in moderation and preferably eat dark chocolate.

- Meat: cold (cured) meat, rare or undercooked meat as well as liver and any kind of pates (meat and vegetarian) are best left out.

- Fish: no raw fish for a bit, ladies, but that is ok, those sushis and chirashis can wait and will taste so good when you can indulge again! The only exception to this is if the fish has been frozen beforehand. Abstain if you are unsure, not worth the risk.

- Eggs: the same principle for meat applies for eggs. Eat them well-cooked.

- Dairy: avoid raw unpasteurised cheeses, yoghurts and milk which is dead easy if you are used to shop in supermarkets as pretty much all dairy products are pasteurised. Double-check just to make sure though!

- Wash your fruits and vegetables especially if you shop at farmers' markets or health food stores to get rid of the soil.

And that is about it really! Not so bad, is it?

/ Eat the rainbow /

/ Smaller portions at the beginning and end of the pregnancy will help sustain your energy levels and see you through nausea during the first trimester and heart burns during the second / 

/ Stay hydrated /

Bon appétit, mamas!
(Pictures are from my Instagram account floyoga)

Season's Greetings 2015

Florence Lefebvre

Dear Yogis,

Here is a short blog to wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from Santa Cow here and me! She does not look too impressed, does she...?!

Our little Nina

Our little Nina

For those of you who are not on social media often or ever for that matter, I will take this opportunity to introduce our little Nina Lee Christensen born on 4th December. My hubbie and I are so in love with her!

Now mama will do her best to get back in shape asap and return to teaching in health clubs and yoga studios this spring. I shall keep you posted of course.

Have a lovely time with your loved ones!

Flo :-)

HEALTHY PREGNANCY: MAINTAINING STRENGTH PART I/II

Florence Lefebvre

If the first trimester of pregnancy (week 1 to about 12) is a time for nurturing through rest and gentle movements to prevent your body from turning into a piece of wood, your second trimester (week 13 to 26) should see you feeling more like yourself again, hooray! You now have more energy and although your bump will start to become more visible, it will remain manageable.

A whole series of hormonal changes have been taking place to make a comfy home for your baby. You may also have noticed that your body seems to have gained in flexibility and you are right. This is due to the increased production of the hormone relaxin which makes your ligaments softer and your joints looser in preparation for giving birth.

Although increased flexibility seems like a bonus ("Splits, here I come!"), it can sometimes translate into various discomforts such as flatter feet, pain in the knees, ankles, pelvic girdle and back. To alleviate this kind of ailments, the key is often to focus on supporting and strengthening.

In Maintaining Strength Part I & II, I offer you 10 poses or movements which will help create stability for those most commonly troubled areas. A big thank you to Pepa Yepes for taking the pictures! You can see her work on her website, Facebook page and on Instagram (pepayepes).
 

 

Foot work
1 - Stand in Tadasana with your feet hip-width apart. Distribute your weight evenly onto the four corners of your feet and spread your toes. Grip your mat firmly with your toes, lifting the arches of your feet and release, relaxing the toes. Repeat 10 times.
If you prefer, do this exercise one foot at a time and if your balance is a bit off, come close to a wall. This exercise will help reinforce and support the arches of your feet.
 

2 - Next, lift your right heel off the mat, coming onto your toes and pushing your heel forward. Hold for a couple of breaths and roll over the toes, arching the foot and now stretching the front of the foot and ankle. Hold for a couple of breaths and release. Alternate 5 times on each side.

 

3 - Still standing in Tadasana, press down on your heels, bending your knees and maintaining your back straight. Your knees should be pointing forward. Next, straighten your legs and start lifting your heels to come onto your tip toes.

If your knees collapse in toward each other, place a Pilates ball or a block between your inner thighs. Check your alignment into a mirror to get some visual feedback and don't hesitate to use the wall if you are feeling a bit wobbly. Repeat 10 times.

 

4 - Squats: Establish a comfortable distance between your feet to accommodate your growing bump and check that they are parallel, toes pointing forward. As you exhale, bend your knees to bring your thighs parallel to the floor, lowering your hips back and down, reaching your arms out in front. As you inhale, straighten the legs to come up, bringing your pelvis back above your feet, lowering your arms by your sides. Repeat 20 times at your own pace to build endurance and strength in your legs and glutes.

Apologies for not having a picture for the following exercise. The tree trunks were far from smooth! ;-)

5 - Supported Chair Pose: Place your back against a wall, maintaining a neutral spine (you should feel a gap between the wall and your lower back). Step your feet forward and about hip-width apart. Bend your knees, bringing them above your ankles, hips in line with the knees or slightly higher but not lower. You might have to adjust the distance between your feet and the wall if you notice that your knees are going past your ankles. Hold for 8 breaths and repeat twice more.
 

You can stop here taking a few moments of silence with your hands in Anjali mudra or continue to Maintaining Strength Part II for the next 5 poses. If sitting onto your heels as shown on the picture above feels uncomfortable even for a few moments, raise your seat onto a bolster or a couple of blocks!

HEALTHY PREGNANCY: MAINTAINING STRENGTH PART II/II

Florence Lefebvre

In Part II of this blog, we are simply adding another 5 poses or exercises to the previous ones which especially target the glutes and back. A big thank you to Pepa Yepes for taking the pictures! You can see her work on her websiteFacebook page and on Instagram (pepayepes).

6 - Come onto all fours, hands under the wrists and knees under the hips, arms straight. Take your right leg back, flexing the foot so that your toes are pointing down, hug your baby in and reach your left arm out in front. Hold for 3 breaths and change side. Alternate another time (or more if you wish) on each side.

Before moving on to the next pose, you might want to stretch the top of your wrists: sit back onto your heels, place the back of your hands on either side of your knees or slightly in front, fingers pointing back. Hold for 5 breaths or longer.

7 - Return to your all fours position and take your right leg back, foot flexed and toes pointing down. Now bend your right knee to create a 90 degree angle, thigh parallel to the floor and shin perpendicular. The sole of your foot will now be facing the ceiling or sky. Have a little look to check your alignement if you so feel inclined and begin to pulse, reaching the heel up and then only so slightly down. You should aim to return your thigh parallel to the floor but not any lower. Pulse between 20 and 30 times on one side and switch. Do up to 3 series if you have the energy!

Take a moment to stretch the top of your wrists again as suggested above, then sit on one side of your feet, sweep your legs around and give them a little shake.

8 - Come into Mermaid pose as follows: from sitting with your legs out in front, roll over your right hip and bend your left leg so as to bring your foot by your left hip,. The top of your foot will be in contact with the floor and your knee will point forward. Next bring your right shin across your mat, knee opening to the side and your toes touching your left knee. The sole of your foot should face your pelvis.

Once you have positioned your legs in this sort of zigzag shape, place your right hand on the floor by your right hip and your left hand on your left hip bone. Inhale, and as you exhale, begin to press the top of your left foot onto your mat and rotate your chest to the right. Your left bum cheek will lift and contract. Inhale as you return to the starting position. Repeat 10 to 20 times and switch side.

9 - Downward Dog against the wall: face the wall at about arms' length and feet slightly wider apart than your hips to make room for your bump. Bend your knees a little as you start to walk your hands down the wall to position your upper body parallel to the floor. You will find yourself in a tilted L- position: your hands, shoulders and hips should be aligned and your hips should be above your feet. If you are comfortable straightening your legs fully for a deeper hamstring stretch, do so on an exhalation. Gently hug your baby in to maintain a long back and hold for 10 breaths.

To come out of the pose, soften your knees, walk your feet closer to the wall and your hands up. Then lightly push the wall away to bring yourself all the way up. Take a few rounds of breaths before moving to our last pose.

10 - Warrior III: return to the previous pose and lift your left leg behind you, foot flexed and toes pointing down. Your back leg should be horizontal and no higher. Depending on your level of flexibility, your supporting leg can either be slightly bent or straight and make sure your knee is facing forward. Hold for 5 deep breaths, release and change leg.

Either come to rest in Savasana lying onto your back if it feels comfortable with a support across the back of your knees (not recommended after 30 weeks) or lie on your left side with a pillow under your head and another one between your knees.

HEALTHY PREGNANCY: MOBILITY PART I/II

Florence Lefebvre

Being 7 months pregnant at the time of writing this blog, I felt like sharing the little I have learnt along the way. Healthy Pregnancy is the first of a series that will cover various aspects of pregnancy and eventually, we will cover post-pregnancy too with a series that will be entitled Healthy Motherhood.

There is no shortage of information on the subject but I hope you will enjoy reading these blogs written mainly from a yoga teacher's perspective.

So you have now embarked on the pregnancy journey and most likely shortly after finding out (which I will assume here was good news - I will write about "An Unwanted Pregnancy" later on in this series), you started to feel "abnormally" tired. I am using quotation marks because there is nothing abnormal about it: your body, on top of dealing with its usual functions, has taken on a new role, that of crafting a human being from scratch!

Your tiredness perhaps accompanied with "morning" sickness too (quotation marks again as it can feel more like all-day-long queasiness!) has led you to be a lot less active than usual. Understandably you need more rest and it has to be honoured. But I will also say this: some gentle walks and yoga movements will do you a world of good! Being too sedentary is not to any body's liking (no spelling mistake here!) - it has been designed to move after all - and I promise you that putting a little bit of effort in will help keep at bay most common aches and pains. You know the ones I am talking about: tight or sore upper and lower back, neck, shoulders and legs.

There are two main categories of movements you need to commit to: mobility and strength.

In the blogs Healthy Pregnancy: Mobility Part I & II, I have selected a series of 10 simple poses and movements designed to support your body's mobility and well-being to enable you to enjoy your pregnancy more fully. You will find strengthening poses and exercises in upcoming blogs.

Please note that if you have been diagnosed with PGP (Pelvic Girdle Pain), some of these poses will either have to be modified as suggested or avoided completely if pain persists.
Let’s start with the first 5 poses and corresponding movements.

Sit cross-legged on a block or a blanket, supporting your outer thighs with some padding of your choice if your hips and/or groin feel tight or sore. Maintaining a long spine, take a few moments to focus on your breath. Deepen your inhale and your exhale.

1 - Place your hands on your shoulders and draw 10 circles with your elbows first to the back of the room and then to the front.

2 - Place your right hand on the floor in line with your hip and slide it away as you lean over to the right for a side stretch bringing your left arm alongside your ear. Hold for 5 breaths.

Next bring your left hand to your left shoulder and draw 10 circles with your elbow from front to back. Start with small circles and widen them up to access a deeper range of motion in your shoulder and upper back. Repeat on the left side.

3 - Interlace your fingers behind the base of the skull, open your elbows wide and lean your head back into your palms to create a gentle arch in the upper back and open the chest. Straighten your head and hug your elbows in, tilting the head forward this time, bringing the chin to the chest, allowing your upper back to round. Repeat 10 times.

4 - Maintain your interlace and bring your arms in front of you at shoulder-height, palms facing your chest. Lean back and form a C-shape with your spine, reaching your palms away from your torso and dropping your head forward. Hold for 5 breaths or more as you might find this simple stretch pretty good!

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5 - Release your interlace, straighten your back and change the cross of your shins. (Rearrange your padding if you used some before). Interlace your fingers again but behind your back for a shoulder stretch, extending your fists away from the spine. Hold for 5 breaths or longer if you wish.

You can stop here and close with a short meditation before getting on with the rest of your day or continue with the next 5 poses in Mobility Part II below.

 

HEALTHY PREGNANCY: MOBILITY PART II/II

Florence Lefebvre

In Part II of this blog, we are adding 5 more poses and movements aimed at creating more space and freedom in your body. Please read Part I to set yourself up properly.

6 - Neck stretches: tilt your head to one side, chin facing forward and hold for 5 breaths.
Tilt your head to the other and hold for 5 breaths. 
Drop your chin to your chest without letting your back round and take 3 head circles to one side. Repeat to the other side.

7 - Hold onto your knees or shins and begin to spin your upper body over your pelvis. Start with 10 small circles and widen them up as you go along. Change direction. (Note: if you have PGP, you might want to try extending your legs out in front instead, slightly apart, with some padding under your seat).

 

8 - Straighten your back, open your arms out to the side at shoulder-height and twist to your right, wrapping your left arm across your chest and your right arm across the back, palm facing away from your back. Hold for 5 breaths, releasing on the exhale. Open your arms to the side again, inhale and twist to your left as you exhale. Hold the twist for another 5 breaths; release as you exhale. This can be done in the modified seated position mentioned above: legs extended out in front and slightly apart.

9 - Come onto all fours. Take your right leg back, tucking the toes under,  keeping your leg straight as you reach through the heel for a calf stretch. Hold for 5 breaths. Return your right knee under the right hip and repeat on the other side. Keep hugging your baby in to prevent straining your lower back.

10 - From all fours, bring your right knee behind your right behind your right hand, shin across the mat for Pigeon Pose, lengthening your left leg back behind you to lower your pelvis closer to the floor. Square your hips (using padding as`a shown above if needed), lean forward and rest onto your forearms.
If your bump happens to press against the floor, either rest your palms in front of you or raise your forearms on a bolster or a padding of an equivalent height to create more space. Hold for 10 to 15 breaths and switch side. (Caution: this pose might not be suitable if you suffer from PGP).

Return onto all fours, bring your legs together and sit back onto your heels. Then drop your pelvis to one side of your feet and sweep your legs around.

To end this series, either come to rest in Savasana lying onto your back if it feels comfortable (not recommended after 30 weeks) or lie on your left-hand side with a pillow under your head and another one between your knees. Rest as long as you need to!

 

Peckham rooftop Yoga!

Florence Lefebvre

Summer is always a great opportunity to make the most of outdoor spaces: parks and even car park when they happen to have a rooftop...!

Bold Tendencies has partnered up with Secret Yoga Club to bring you some yoga classes with lovely views of London. Classes run every Sunday, 10-11.00am, and Mondays, 19.00-20.00, throughout August / early September with a variety of teachers so that you can return and experience different styles. 

I taught a couple of these classes and last Sunday was the highlight of my week!
The weather could not have been more perfect: sunny but not too hot, a gentle breeze and blue skies with fluffy clouds, mmm...

Thank you to those of you who came, you were a really fun group to teach :-)

Here are a few pictures to get you inspired to try a class.


PORTUGAL YOGA RETREAT: JUNE 2015

Florence Lefebvre

Yoga Crew Vintage 2015: a good year!

Yoga Crew Vintage 2015: a good year!

A month ago already, 14 of us yogis took off for a yoga holiday in Southern Portugal. I taught 2-hours long sessions mornings and evenings over 5 days, varying the philosophical focus of each session as well as its pace.

After each class, we sat at a long table on the front yard of our venue, Monte na Luz, and had breakfast and dinner together. And in case you are wondering, yes, there was coffee available in the morning as well as wine in the evening!

The group was truly amazing and fun which I had no doubt about once the bookings started to come in as I knew most of the practitioners. They had attended some of my classes and/or previous yoga retreats. The new faces were friends of existing students and added beautifully to the existing mix! 

We talked and laughed a lot, explored the nearby town of Loulé as well as some of the stunning beaches that the Algarve has to offer. And when one needed to spend time on their own, the property offered plenty of areas for some quiet reading and meditating.

As a teacher, I have been blessed with such lovely groups ever since I built up enough confidence to organise retreats. Quickly a sense of camaraderie prevails and some friendships have blossomed within this favourable context.

So a huge thanks to you all for coming with an open mind, a sense of humour and a bucketful of smiles, and making yet another yoga retreat feel like a wonderful holiday!

With love and gratitude,

Flo :-)

To see some pictures of the holiday, please click here or check my Instagram account.

Learning about pregnancy

Florence Lefebvre

In September this year, I decided to sign up for a Pregnancy Yoga Teacher Training with Uma Dinsmore-Tuli, a well-known figure in the field and Lisa White, yoga teacher and owner of Yoga Place in Bethnal Green.

Of course we learnt about the physical and hormonal changes in the body during and post-pregnancy, the do's and don'ts, but I have to say that the most valuable element I had to relearn is to nurture the mothers.

We live in a society where individuals are expected to function no matter what, whether you have a cold, are feeling tired or in this case, are pregnant. Truth is pregnancy is a real roller coaster on the body; building a new human does not just happen without creating some commotions and it certainly does require some adjustments. Now is not the time to start working on inversions or training for that 10k-run!

If you are pregnant and are already a well-seasoned yoga practitioner, be reassured, there is a lot you can do but you absolutely need to take into account the new demands put on your body at this time. Your blood volume will increase by 40-50% which is likely to cause breathlessness. You are getting more flexible due to the production of the hormone relaxin and have to be careful not to overstretch and destabilise your joints. Your growing bump will also demand of you to adapt your breath as "belly breathing" won't be an option - especially in the third trimester - and the classic Mulha Bandha has to be let go off for the whole of your pregnancy. Pelvic floor muscles exercises are still taught but in the exact opposite way of Mulha Bandha. You will inhale and lift, exhale and release instead. And these are just a few bullet points!

Revisiting the breath, poses and pace of your practice might be mentally challenging at first but non-attachement to being onto your mat as you have known it until now is essential. Nothing is ever going to be the same anyway from now on and that is more than ok!

By taking up pregnancy yoga, you are likely to find that your mind, your body and therefore your child hugely benefit. The practice is centered on your specific needs during this period as an ever-changing entity of two bodies - physical, mental, emotional -. It will help you get in touch more fully with the mother that you are becoming, trusting your inner wisdom and being reminded that you already intuitively know everything you need to know to look after your baby and yourself. 


WIND, SAND AND STARS BY ANTOINE DE SAINT-EXUPERY

Florence Lefebvre

I discovered Antoine de St Exupéry in junior high school when his book Le Petit Prince was part of the curriculum. I loved the book - probably because there is a fox in it! - but l have to say that neither I nor my classmates at the time did understand the full depth and symbolism of the story.

Now years later, I read another book by this master of literature, Wind, Sand and Stars (or Terre des hommes), a poetic narrative about Saint-Exupéry's time as a pilot for l'Aéropostale, an aviation company which provided air mail service between 1918 and 1933.  Every flight was a perilous mission then and pilots were never quite sure if they would be back.  

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WHAT MAKES A GOOD TEACHER?

Florence Lefebvre

Oh là, where to start?! I guess I can only share what is, to me, a good yoga teacher given there will be as many opinions as there are people.

// Kind and open //

Ideally, a teacher provides a nice and friendly environment to walk into. Some students are regulars and there is a certain camaraderie amongst them, which is great, but to avoid a certain air of "clique-ness", the newer students should be made especially welcome. It simply takes for a teacher to introduce her-/himself and have a quick word with the newer students ("Have you done yoga before?"; "Do you need some blocks?"). For me, an approachable and friendly teacher goes a long way.

// Knowledgeable and skilled //

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WALKING THE LINES

Florence Lefebvre

When turning up to a yoga class, you have probably heard instructions such as: “Bring your front knee directly above your ankle, turn your back foot in, gently draw your navel in and up and reach through your fingers to send some energy in your arms while keeping your shoulders down.” Phew, quite a mission and this is just for Warrior I! And not to freak you out or anything but a lot more could be said on this one pose. Just pop to an Iyengar class if you need to be convinced!

So are your instructors totally OCD? Well, that is a possibility but the detailed information provided are for our own good.

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