OM Yoga Show 2018 19th – 21st October, Alexandra Palace, London

Hello friends!

The annual OM Yoga show & Mind Body Soul Experience took place a few weeks ago in London. I went along on the Friday with my sister-in-law and am writing to share with you our experience and takeaways from the event.

This was our first time visiting the show, so went without any expectations, and we were both pleasantly surprised! I was amazed by just how much was on offer at the show.

The main exhibition hall had been turned into a market place for everything yoga related all under one roof. From yoga mats & clothing, yoga holidays and retreats, to the unusual such as geometric wall art and eco-friendly modular buildings, it was all here. Large spaces had been sectioned off all around the sides of the main hall, as well as some separate rooms leading from the main entrance way. These spaces all served as yoga studios. Each area was sponsored by a different company and had a schedule of free yoga taster sessions running throughout the day. Most of these ran for ½ hour each. In total, there were 13 designated yoga ‘studios’ including a children’s yoga area and an open lecture stage. As well as the free classes, there was also a large workshop room hosting longer 1½ hour paid sessions, priced very reasonably between £8-12. Tickets for the workshops could be purchased online in advance or on the day.

I came prepared with an event booklet and had noted down all of the taster sessions I wanted to attend beforehand. Still, with so much choice on offer and multiple classes all running at the same time, it was tough to narrow it down!

First stop was a spiral anatomy class for yoga teachers, by Karen Kirkness, held over at the Pukka floor space. The session focused on the way the body aligns in spirals, through a series of practical asanas.

We began by bringing awareness to the feet, and gradually moved upwards through the body. The session also included examination of deep squats and how these are accessed differently depending on mobility and body type. We are all unique and so move to squat from different positions and foot alignment. Instead of focusing on our own mat, we were encouraged to look around the room and see how others were approaching the posture, which was refreshing and a great learning experience as yoga teachers. My takeaways were to brush up on anatomy and also keep practicing those squats! For further info about Karen and the studio where she teaches up in Edinburgh, Scotland, you can visit: www.meadowlarkyoga.com

Next session was a mixed discipline Fitness class, also at the Pukka floor area. The class incorporated Qi Gong, Tai Chi, Yoga, Pilates, Dance, Martial Arts, Meditation and Relaxation. I was intrigued by this fusion of styles and was keen to join in and find out more. The session was popular, but I arrived early and secured a mat near the back of the room. The teacher had a lovely clear yet playful style of instruction. There was a sense of lightness and joy as we gracefully flowed from one movement to another. The sweeps and links between postures felt almost like waves and the whole session was fluid and well-constructed. Coming from a pure yoga background I didn’t really know what to expect. Any links between different disciplines appeared seamless, some postures were familiar whilst others were unknown and challenging. I liked these ones – it was also a mental workout trying to figure out what to do. Like the session before, the class involved deep squats (definitely felt those thigh muscles and glutes working throughout the day!). We also included some floor work and balances. I came out of the session feeling refreshed and awake.

Third session of the day was by Nichola Selby-Allen & Caelia Butcher from Accessible Yoga Foundation. I arrived to find a free goody bag by the mat, which is always a good way to start a class! Teaching a weekly chair based yoga class, learning skills to pass on to students and finding ways to keep yoga accessible is something I’m always on the lookout for, so this slot went straight into the diary. The teachers went through a gentle sun salutation sequence as well as some wonderful and deeply restorative asanas from a starting point of lying down in savasana. They also covered chair based variations. I particularly enjoyed the leg stretches and back rolls. The sequencing of the class was smooth and gentle, yet well-paced and energizing. I could see how it would translate well into a mixed class with some people choosing chairs whilst others worked on mats. Accessible Yoga Foundation offers courses, classes, workshops, online classes and more. For further info please visit: www.accessibleyogafoundation.co.uk

Second to last session was the highlight of the day for me. Introduction to massage techniques with Meghan Mari, co-founder of Jing Advanced Massage Training. We worked in pairs and learned a 10 minute massage, taking turns to give and receive the massage.

At the end of the session I felt confident in being able to apply these new found skills for friends and family. The taster was great because as well as learning something new, we also received the massage as well, so felt relaxed by the end of the class. The session was well organized. Meghan had a number of people helping her to demonstrate the techniques on stage, as well as walking around the floor and giving us guidance and corrections as we worked. The team from Jing were all skilled professionals, but also came across as friendly and the atmosphere felt light: full of laughter and fun. For further info please visit: www.jingmassage.com

Finally ended the day with some core conditioning (exhausted by this point, but squeezed in one more session, yay!). Absolutely Fab Abs with Sarah Ramsden over at the Tea India corner delivered exactly what it promised: a fun sequence of linked standing, planking, and sitting exercises all designed to get those abdominal muscles activated. Beginning with some breathing exercises (felt similar to kapalabhati with strong exhalations), we engaged those core muscles before moving through the physical exercises.

Even in the short ½ hour session, we developed a greater understanding of this important area of the body. Takeaways: abdominal muscles wrap all the way around including the back! Think about abdominals keeping most of our internal organs secure and maintaining a strong support between pelvis and ribcage. Deep backward bending asanas are great some of the time but can lead to overstretched abdominal muscles. To complement these types of postures, we also need to include abdominal strengthening exercises. Sarah Ramsden offers functional anatomy courses, yoga for sports, and more. For further info please visit: www.sportsyoga.co.uk

It was great seeing that various charities also had a presence at the event. Action Village India, DogsTrust, Marine Conservation Society, WWF, The Woodland Trust, and AnimalEquity all had stalls. The event was the perfect platform for charities - I felt a warm sense of community, not only from the stall holders and workshop teachers, but also from the other visitors. Everyone seemed excited to be there, from the lady I met on the bus in the morning heading to the event, to the various people we stopped and chatted to.

There was a wide variety of food, both for sale and to try at the stalls and also at food vendors. There were plenty of vegan options on offer, which was great.

We tried pumpkin bread, handmade chocolate, energy balls, popped lotus seeds, vegan pates and dips, and lots and lots of herbal lattes (thanks Pukka!). The vegan food choices and recipe ideas motivated me to keep going on my own personal journey towards a fully plant based diet. I left with an increased level of determination to reach this goal sooner. Still on the lookout for a tasty vegan cheese alternative though!

As well as attending taster classes it was also great to just walk around and visit all the great stalls and exhibition spaces. I was keen to visit the aerial exercise tent, and had fun getting tied up in silks and having a go at the hoop equipment. Just as we were about to leave we were treated to a singing bowl demonstration which was a really special way to end the day.

The event was well organised. Free shuttle buses ran every 20 minutes from Wood Green tube Station. I would definitely recommend this event, and will hopefully be returning next year!

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