Are you actually strong enough for your practice?

I’ve been a ‘yogi’ with varying styles of yoga practice from pregnancy to ‘power’ to ashtanga vinyasa and yin for as long as I can remember before I had my kids (now in their 20s). I’ve always prided myself on feeling that I had a complete practice with strength, suppleness, flexibility and stamina. Sufficient for my needs anyway as a mum who back then carried babies, packed up homes and moved boxes umpteenth times across the world and back. Only I had so many injuries that there were times I despaired and felt it was time to give up yoga by the time I hit my 40s. I had cervical induced migraines, a shoulder tear, tendonitis in both arms, sacroiliac ‘issues’, knee pain and plantar fasciitis. Not all at once of course but certainly overlapping. What I didn’t realise back then was that I had developed a practice before I had sufficient strength to meet the demands of jump throughs, chaturanga and even downward facing dog. I began to have my suspicions though and naturally over the years began to understand I needed to either stop what I was doing, change how I was practicing or learn how to develop the necessary strength if that was how I wanted to continue to enjoy my practice. The problem is, I just didn’t the time or the means to have endless private PHYSICAL therapy, personal training, acupuncture and remedial massage. Over the years it has cost me a small fortune to keep above the pain threshold.

Along came Covid and suddenly I, as with everyone in the world was forced to change the rhythm of my day and of course how I was practicing. Teaching many hours online without a break was a life line to be able to carry on working but it also took a different toll on eyestrain and now cluster headaches. How to beat that now as well as low mood and fear for my vulnerable mother and family with the lockdown of the world?  A wonderful friend suggested a teacher who was teaching daily at the same time each day via Zoom with a combination of dance, fitness and body weight strength training and toning. It was a far cry from the yoga world and I could tell immediately I was out of my depth, breathless, uncoordinated and definitely not in the kind of shape I thought I was in. I discovered in fact how weak I was when I saw others managing to do lunges, squats and sit up curls when I clearly was struggling….. but nevertheless I felt hooked because after every class, my mood lifted without fail and gradually over the months I began to feel stronger.  I am just going to fast forward to a year now before you lose interest to say that I persevered even on the worst of days and a year later have emerged stronger, fitter and also heavier which was not how I ever imagined I needed to be able to squat, jump, do push ups or sit ups.  Why does any of this matter? Well it doesn’t but it’s enabled me to lift my stand up paddle board by myself, it’s eradicated my neck and shoulder pain and not only am I warmer (as in don’t feel the cold as much) but I feel fit and strong and I am simply not as tired and as I am well into my late 50s now, I think it’s an incredible result.  So I am sharing some articles with you to say, it’s never never too late to develop the strength to do the things you love doing and as a consequence I actually enjoy my Yin Yoga practice more now because I feel more.  I’ll be explaining why the yin and yang of exercises are VITAL to maintain balance in our body because I have come full circle.

This year ALL of my trainings will contain the latest recordings of lectures  to prepare you for the practice and our time together online live will be interactive where communication can feel more spacious. There will be time to absorb the theory and the science in your own time through state of the art lectures and newly published digital manuals that are easy to navigate. My assistants have been trialling all of the material and loving the new way of integrating and upgrading their learning.  All courses have been upgraded to 40 hours where the pricing has remained for the older 30 hour courses.

I hope to see you online while I can still offer my teachings this way.

Be well and may ALL of your practices continue to inspire you and support you in an optimal way,
Sarah xx

Here are the articles:-

Why you need to add strength training to your routine in midlife.

Be honest with yourself: are you getting weaker? For most people, a mid-to-late-life push to get into shape means starting with cardio by taking up running or cycling. But, especially as middle age approaches, strength should probably loom larger in most people’s lives. 

Strength training can help prevent the natural loss of lean muscle mass that comes with ageing. This in turn improves your quality of life and reduces your risk from falls and injuries. Strength training also increases bone density and reduces the risk of fractures. According to a 2017 study published in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research, just 30 minutes twice a week of high-intensity resistance and impact training was shown to improve bone density, structure and strength in post-menopausal women with low bone mass. 

A strength-based session also ramps up post-workout calorie burning and the effect gets more pronounced as you learn to lift more weight. There’s also some evidence that having more muscle raises your resting metabolic rate, but the effect isn’t as pronounced as you might think. Dr Cedric X Bryant, the American Council on Exercise’s chief science officer, says research suggests that 1lb of muscle only burns about six to seven calories a day. 

It’s also good for your brain: every type of exercise improves mood by boosting endorphins, but there’s additional evidence that resistance training in particular can protect against anxiety and depression. And it may also work over the long term: in 2020, researchers from the University of Sydney found that lifting weights could slow and even halt degeneration in brain areas particularly vulnerable to Alzheimer’s. 

Cardio always comes in handy, and keeping your weight in check is sensible, but strength – especially when it’s developed through exercises that keep you mobile – can be a truly life-proofing trait.

The basics of strength training in midlife

So you’ve been convinced of the benefits of strength training. The next question: where do you start? 

There are dozens of plans and programmes vying for your attention, but what all good plans have in common is that they provide a balance between the simple, functional movements any healthy body should be able to do. These include: 

Pushing: This means anything from a dumbbell press to a press-up. 

Pulling: This is what many programmes miss, as it’s tricky to do without equipment: but it’s essential as it redresses the balance from all the forward-hunching you do at your desk. 

Squatting: Simple but crucial. Years of slouching on sofas and in office chairs wreck our mobility. Fix it with some squats and you’ll benefit from healthier hips and knees. 

Hip-hinging: Sounds complex, but you see it everywhere: a deadlift is a hip hinge, but so is a kettlebell swing. 

Carrying: This will keep your core strong, without endless sit-ups. 

Unlike cardio, which is usually done continuously or in high-intensity bursts, strength training demands proper recovery between sets. Normally, you should focus on one or two moves at once. It’s important to lift with good form and think quality over quantity. Strength athletes sometimes joke that anything over five reps counts as cardio – you can do up to 12, but after that, it’s time to up the weight or pick a harder movement. 

Though bodybuilders often wax lyrical about training to ‘failure’ – the point where your muscles literally won’t allow you to lift another thing – it’s not a useful approach. A good rule of thumb: however many reps you’ve planned to do, stop the set once they start to slow down to the point that you’re grinding them out. Come back tomorrow for the first of our 20-minute strength plans based on age and ability.