Tuesday, 11 December 2018

6 Things I've Learned From Yoga Retreats

6 Things I've Learned From Yoga Retreats

Before I left to run my seventh yoga retreat, I had a clear intention; I wanted to inspire and help everyone there to live the best 2019 they possibly could. It might sound cheesy, but it's true.

Amongst others, I asked everyone - How do you want to feel in 2019? What promise are you going to make to yourself for 2019? What activities do you want to do in 2019?

2019 is almost upon us! Are you ready? Are you happy to see this year go or not? Either way the new year is on its way. This is the perfect time to reflect on your 2018 and then look forward towards 2019 and consider how you can create the best year. 

Acknowledging this year in all its glory - the good the bad and the ugly - is a wonderful way to accept the ebb and flow of life and know that nothing truly ever ends, it's just a cycle. If you look closely at the trees, you'll see the buds are already there, ready to emerge in spring.

So let's look onwards, let’s let go of distractions and the oh-I-would-love-to-but's and ask yourself those three same questions I asked.

Then ask yourself:-

Are you wanting to commit to a yoga practice? 
Is your promise to take better care of yourself?
Would you like to feel healthier?
Maybe you want to feel more settled and calmer?
You may wish to feel full of energy and life in 2019!
Do you want to put yourself first for a bit and switch off while you have fun too?

Hands on Harmony Yoga retreats are a wonderful place to focus on yoga; to learn ways to be healthier in body, mind and spirit; to take time out for you and they are specifically designed to furnish you with everything you need for complete joy and revitalisation. 

Everyone and every body is welcome into our relaxing atmosphere, whether you’re looking to unwind, gain energy, connect with kindred spirits, start your new year perfectly or just create some time for you.

Here are 6 things I've learned from running yoga retreats:-

1. Choosing Your Retreat 

Every time we start a retreat we ask people why they have chosen to come on that retreat. What made them decide to attend that retreat at that venue? 

The answers can vary. Some come to spend time with a friend and others come to meet like minded people. Sometimes it's more planned than that. Some attendees want to expand their knowledge of yoga or get back into a lost practice and some want to give yoga a whirl in a safe environment. For others its a time for self-care, to treat themselves to rest and relaxation. For most it's to experience a sense of nurturing, being immersed and uplifted in peaceful yet energetic surroundings.
So ask yourself why do you want to come on a yoga retreat? What is your connection to it? Then let your heart guide you.

2. Leave The Guilt Behind

You know that backpack of guilt that you carry around with you? Leave it at home. Seriously. We can only give what we have and we can’t pour from an empty cup so give yourself a pat on the back for making the decision to take time for you, to look after yourself so that you can be a better person when you get back home. You, your loved ones and friends will thank you for it.

3. Do Right By Yourself On Retreat

This flows on from the last point. We get so used to being there for everyone else that we can forget ourselves. When you're on retreat be there for yourself. 

There are blocks of free time – not a few minutes snatched here and there, but blocks of hours. How often do you have that amount of free time to do what you want?  

One thing I always try and emphasis on retreat is for everyone to listen to their body and just attend the workshops that they want to and feel unquestionably no pressure to do everything. I have no expectation of attendees and there is absolutely no judgment whatsoever. 

You can get up for early morning yoga – or not. You can get a treatment – or not. You can sit around and chat in the evening – or not. You can get a cup of tea or some fruit whenever you like. You even take a nap whenever you like!! Just make sure you're doing right by yourself.

4. Keep The Mind Open

If you have made the decision to come on retreat then you will most likely have come with predisposed ideas. We all do! It's natural. You may feel a bit apprehensive or worried but I will do everything I can to make you feel at ease and at home. The retreats I run are suitable for all bodies, all abilities and ages. Relax and open your heart and mind. I will help with any queries as much as I possibly can.

5. Be Fully There

This can be challenging if you’ve got a lot going on at home. We rely heavily on our phones these days and it can be tough not to look at it. If possible, try and leave it in your bedroom as often as you can. The retreat weekends are a time of reflection, meditation and deep yoga practice and there is a considerable benefit to ensuring our minds are not filled with unnecessary bits and bobs. 

If you find yourself on a yoga retreat you will have invested to be there, so give the practice, the conversations, the food and the place your full attention to enjoy every moment. 

6. Tune Into Your Mind

On retreats we spend some time in meditation. Meditation provides you with space to reflect and feel into everything so much deeper. The mind can be unruly and it can create wandering thoughts, which can create negative feelings. When we realise that we are in control of the mind and that we have the power to change our thoughts, we can also feel so much stronger emotionally. It’s a strong tool to be able to control your own mind. It's not a skill that is perfected overnight, but much like anything, the more you do it, the easier it becomes.
Once you control your thoughts you realise that you can do anything you set your mind to.

So what is it in your life that needs re-assessing? What are you choosing to put first in 2019? Start living in accordance with what is most important to you. This doesn’t mean that you are being selfish or forgetful. We can only give what we have and we can’t pour from an empty cup, so what would you like to fill it up with this New Year?  

If you would like to join me on my retreats in 2019 you will be warmly welcomed. I have retreats in January, March, April and October. 

For more information please visit www.handsonharmony.co.uk

Got a question? Get in touch here 

Om shanti,

Jenny  x

by Jenny Dowling - Jenny is passionate about yoga and yoga health. Her love of yoga began at the age of 11 when she was introduced to it  by her mother. When Jenny isn't teaching or recording classes for her online yoga members, she is busy looking after her little family (daughter, fiancé and Finnish Lapphund), walking in the nearby moorland or trying out new delicious Ayurvedic and vegan recipes. Connect with Jenny on Facebook or  Instagram.

Friday, 26 October 2018

6 Yoga FAQs Answered!

Most people who contact me have many different questions about yoga, health and all things wellness.

Here are 6 common questions ANSWERED (wooo!) to help you embark on your yoga health path.

1. I've never done yoga before and I'm not flexible. Will I be able to do your classes?

Yes, absolutely! Many beginners worry that they won't be able to keep up with a class and that they need to be flexible. That's much the same as believing that you need to be able to paint a landscape before taking painting lessons. You will find that a yoga practice will help you to become more flexible, not just in your body, but also in your mind and outlook in life.

The classes that I run are infused with modifications and adaptations so all levels of students can enjoy the benefits of yoga, such as strength, improved cardio-vascular health, agility and so much more.

2. What does Namaste mean that we say at the end of class?

At the end of every yoga class you will see me bring my hands together in a prayer position, bow forward and say 'Namaste'.

For teacher and student, namaste allows individuals to come together energetically to a timeless place and connection, free from ego. 

A definition of namaste is "I bow to your true self". The true self might be seen as a deeper version of yourself, less attached to any ego driven actions or thoughts, it's the kindest, calmest, gentlest, happiest, most compassionate and loving person you can be.

The exchange between students and teacher at the end of the class is a beautiful way to honour the true self in each of us.

3. Will yoga conflict with my religion?

No. Yoga does not conflict with religion. It's a huge misconception that yoga is a religion. It is in fact a philosophy that began around 5000 years ago in India. Yoga teaches us spiritual growth as well as proficiency over the physical body, emotions and mind.

It is not necessary to surrender your religious beliefs in order to practice yoga. Many religious people attend my classes including  Christians, Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists. Some people have even told me that they have felt closer to their religion since practicing yoga because of the spiritual growth they have achieved.

Yoga can sometimes interweave Hindu and Buddhist philosophy but it due to the heritage of the yoga and vedic philosophies. It is not necessary to study those paths however, in order to practice yoga.

If you would like to learn more about yoga and its philosophy why not take my online Yoga Philosophy course? Contact me at hello@handsonharmony.co.uk for more details.

4. What is Ayurveda?

Ayurveda dates back to around 5000 years ago when the sages of India developed a powerful mind-body health system - the science of life - to maintain balance physically, mentally and emotionally,. It is designed to help people reach their maximum potential whilst staying vibrant and healthy.

The word Ayurveda is Sanskrit. Ayur = Life and Veda = science or knowledge.

Ayurveda offers many practices for achieving true balance including being aware of your unique constitution, eating foods that will bring your constitution the best balance and ensuring your daily routine is right for your body type.

If you would like to know more about Ayurveda and how it can help you stay vibrant and full of vitality you may be interested in a one-one session or attending one of my workshops on Ayurveda.  Contact me at hello@handsonharmony.co.uk for more details.

5. Do I need to buy anything? What should I wear to a yoga class?

At the end of each class we lie down for Savasana and during this time your body temperature can drop so I recommend that students bring a blanket with them. This can also be used as a prop in some of the postures.

Some students like to have their own yoga mat, but that is not a requirement with my classes as I do have spare mats. If you would like to borrow a mat please let me know and I will bring one for you to use. Alternatively if you would like to purchase a mat I can recommend some particular makes and styles.

When coming to class I want you to feel comfortable. Some people like to wear leggings and a t shirt, some prefer sweatshirts and some people like to wear jeggings! Whatever you feel happy in that allows you to move freely but is not too loose.

6. Why do we lie down at the end of the class and relax?

At the end of class we lie down in Savasana - corpse pose and it is an ESSENTIAL part of yoga practice.

Savasana is a time to rest at the end of movement practice to soak up all the benefits of the physical practice. It provides time for our bodies and minds to meet and integrate providing us with that blissful sensation that yoga gives, rather than jumping straight back into the whirlwind that is our busy lives.

Yoga is an eight-fold process and asana - movement postures - is just one part of it. Pratyahara forms another areas of yoga which teaches us to withdraw our senses from the world and go within ourselves. Savasana and relaxation is one way to practice pratyahara. By turning our awareness inward we tap into deep insights and help ourselves to be calm and grounded.

Savasana also calms and soothes our nervous system allowing our bodies natural healing methods to kick in, bringing about restoration, rejuvenation and recovery - all essential for maintaining a healthy body and mind.

Got a question? Get in touch here

Om shanti,

Jenny  x

by Jenny Dowling - Jenny is passionate about yoga and yoga health. Her love of yoga began at the age of 11 when she was introduced to it  by her mother. When Jenny isn't teaching or recording classes for her online yoga members, she is busy looking after her little family (daughter, fiancé and Finnish Lapphund), walking in the nearby moorland or trying out new delicious Ayurvedic and vegan recipes. Connect with Jenny on Facebook or  Instagram.

Saturday, 29 September 2018

One to One Sessions - 4 Ways to Get The Most Out of Your Time!

Entering into the realm of one-to-one classes can be an exciting prospect for both teacher and student and can offer a chance to really get to know your body and mind away from the influence of other students. One-to-one yoga is the traditional way of learning yoga. The ancient yogis knew the importance of personal yoga practice; ensuring the individualisation of each asana and pranayama so that each student could grow and tap into the best version of themselves.

Nowadays there are more individuals wishing to undertake a yoga practice and there just aren’t enough hours in a day to reach every student! Thankfully group classes are available which allow greater accessibility and also create an energising atmosphere which is affordable; however, in group classes the teachers are not always in a position (pardon the pun!) to be able to provide individual attention and guidance, which we all need from one time or another.


People decide to embark on private yoga sessions for a variety of reasons. Some have never experienced yoga before and feel overwhelmed at the idea of attending a group class. Others have many years of yoga under their belt but now need help with injuries or particular asanas. Others pursue this path in order to deal with emotional and mental challenges.  Some people enjoy the flexibility of private sessions, as they can arrange a time and place that works for them. A private yoga lesson allows for a closer view into how your body and your mind work and therefore creates an authentic practice for… YOU.

It makes sense to make the most of a private session. As a student, a good private session is well worth the investment. As well as having the complete attention of the teacher you will also be able to try new asanas or sequences that you may have previously shied away from. If you are exploring yoga as a therapy, for example to ease a stiff shoulder then private sessions enable a teacher to design a practice just for you.

As a yoga teacher, I have experienced that working with students on a one-to-one basis has helped me to improve my abilities as a teacher and I find it incredibly rewarding to witness the progress of a student over a period of time.
One to one time with a yoga teacher is very enlightening and will often start at a mellower pace so the teacher can take time to focus on any alignment challenges specific to that student. These sessions also have the opportunity of providing immediate feedback, so the student can comment on how they feel and the teacher can consider what is happening in that moment; providing a full mind and body evaluation.

In order to get the most out of your private sessions here are some points to keep in mind:


Every student comes to yoga for a reason, that’s a given, however those reasons will vary from student to student and sometimes a group class just cannot address everyone’s needs. Accordingly, the teacher sets the intention for the group class, however in a private setting the intention lies in the hands of the student. Have you ever been to a class needing some time to chill out and take it easy and everyone else wants a strong, sweat-filled practice or vice versa? You don’t have that issue in a private session. In a private session the student’s goals set the tone for the entire practice, so make sure that you know what your goals are. Why do you want these sessions? Also don’t be afraid to work towards an “impossible” pose. If you want to be able to do full splits then say so, then that goal can be worked towards in the sessions.


In a group yoga class, the wishes and needs of the students are generalized, whilst in one-to-one sessions they are very specific and exclusive to that student. Knowing the priorities of the student will set the stage for the rest of the sessions; the student directs the work. For example, if the student is someone who is troubled by stiff knees or is an anxious individual then the teacher can work with that and design the practice appropriately. Once the teacher is aware of what the student wants to work on they can select the suitable elements and teach them in a way that addresses the needs of the student. Speak up in your private sessions; be vocal about how you want to work and what you feel comfortable with. If you have a specific style of yoga that you prefer then don’t be shy, after all private sessions are about a personal practice and personal preference.


In one-to-one time, visual and verbal feedback are present throughout and any part of the practice can be modified based on the responses from the student. It is a delicate and in-depth process of adjustment based on how the student feels at that moment. If the thought of another downward dog makes your eyes roll then an alternative asana is practiced. Simples. Immediate feedback is a great advantage of private sessions, so embrace it, be sure to say how you feel in each asana and take on board any feedback from the teacher. By doing this, you will notice a huge improvement in your practice in a shorter time frame.


Not everything can be achieved in one session per week and therefore a regular practice at home is essential in order to notice progress. Private sessions provide the student with their own unique practice, one which they can tap into in their own time. This consistent practice allows the student to be mindful of how they move their body and use their mind, both on and off the mat. If you go down the route of private sessions then you’ll find great benefit in using the tailor-made practice in your own time, at home, between sessions.
Effort and commitment are described in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras (1.19 - 1.22) and accomplishment is described as being in direct proportion to your faith and how much time and effort you invest. Makes sense, doesn’t it? If you practice every now and again with little intensity then it will take you a lot longer to reach your goals, on the other hand if you practice often with great faith, you will achieve your goals much faster. That’s what the home practice is for. So go on - roll your mat out!

Whether you decide to venture down the path of private sessions or not, hopefully this has given you a better idea of what sets them apart from group classes. If you do take the time to invest in yourself and go private, then don’t be afraid to get the best from the experience. This is your practice and your incredible journey, enjoy!

Om shanti,

Jenny  x

by Jenny Dowling - Jenny is passionate about yoga and yoga health. Her love of yoga began at the age of 11 when she was introduced to it  by her mother. When Jenny isn't teaching or recording classes for her online yoga members, she is busy looking after her little family (daughter, fiancé and Finnish Lapphund), walking in the nearby moorland or trying out new delicious Ayurvedic and vegan recipes. Connect with Jenny on Facebook or  Instagram.

Thursday, 9 August 2018

Successfully Maintaining Your Yoga Practice

The Energy of Creation

Here we are in August - slap bang in the middle of the summer. 

There's a vibrancy that comes with the summer months - radiance. Fire energy is rapid at this time of year and passions are easily ignited, together with the enthusiasm and the high we experience when we know that anything is possible. It is the perfect time of year to "get things done".

The energy at this time of year can be one of creation. Starting new projects can be fairly easy to do, especially when fire energy is abundant - a new job, a new relationship, a new routine. On the other hand, it can also be fairly easy to end something when we feel we have bitten off more than we can chew. The challenge comes in maintaining what we have created. 

Over the years people have asked me what they should do in order to have a successful yoga practice at home. My answer is always the same - keep it simple. You don't need to replicate what we do in class in your practice every day at home. If you set yourself a goal of doing a 75 minute practice every day at dawn, you're setting yourself a big challenge to maintain.

Creating, Maintaining & Destroying 

In yoga philosophy there are three main deities - Bhrama (the creator), Vishnu (the maintainer) and Shiva (the destroyer). Vishnu is the protector and the one who keeps order. Out of these three deities, Vishnu is said to have the hardest job.

The deities are representations of different parts of ourselves. These deities are reflections of the parts of ourselves that create, maintain and destroy.

An example of this can be when we look at gardening. You might decide one day that you want to create a beautiful garden. You go to the garden centre and purchase a myriad of stunning plants. Every colour you can find. You plant these in the garden and it looks beautiful. What a wonderful creation. The challenge arrives when the weeds start to grow and some of the plants start to wilt. Are they planted in the right area of the garden? Was the soil well prepared? What is the correct feed for each plant? 

It takes patience and dedication to maintain the beauty that was created. You may decide that the maintenance is too time consuming and too hard so you stop maintaining or you dig it all up and destroy it. The creation and the destruction of the garden were much easier than the maintenance. This can be applied in so many areas of our lives, especially when it comes to your yoga practice.

Everyone is unique. There are no two people who are exactly the same. Therefore every yoga practice needs to be unique and you may find that your practice changes throughout the year, even throughout the week! Be flexible with yourself and set yourself realistic goals.

I was once told a story about a lady whose yoga practice goal was to unroll her mat each morning and simply stand on it. If she did that then she had stuck to her practice. Of course, she never just stood on the mat, she practiced some yoga but there was no pressure as to how many sun salutations or asanas or energy block release sequences she did. She just simply had to connect the soles of her feet with her mat. Keeping it simple, keeping it kind.


In yoga and ayurveda there is something called ahimsa, which in simple terms means non-violence. This is not only a command not to hurt or kill but embraces a wider meaning i.e. learning to love life and yourself. If you do not hurt yourself you will not hurt others.

Ahimsa should always be acknowledged in your asana practice. Never push your body to the point of pain or discomfort as this is inflicting violence upon yourself. Try not to pass negative judgment to yourself or others as this is against ahimsa. I would even say, that to put an expectation of a demanding yoga practice on yourself is against ahimsa. Be kind, be gentle. Yes we want to increase strength and flexibility in the body and mind, but we want to achieve this in a kind way. One of my lovely students, Kath, introduced me to the term "kindfulness" and I think this is a beautiful way to translate part of the meaning of ahimsa.

My yoga journey started at the age of 11 and so I have had years of being off and on my yoga path. I've tried different routines, practices and disciplines. I can honestly say that keeping it simple and being kind to myself are the keys I've found to successful maintenance.

In order to create a successful yoga practice, which is more likely to be maintained, follow these steps:-

1. Ask yourself - what kind of practice do I enjoy? i.e. a relaxing practice or energising flow? Then ask yourself, what kind of practice do I need?* These two answers may be different and in that case try to do a mixture of both.

2. How many days of the week can you REALISTICALLY do your practice at home? You may want to be someone who practices every day but if you do not currently have a regular practice then you may find it to be too much of a change - eventually burning out. A good starting point is 3 days a week. You can always build on this.

3. How much time can you REALISTICALLY spare in those days? Many people think they need to have a daily 90 minute practice. This is not the case. Do what you can. Yoga is a life long practice,  take your time. An ideal time would be between 15 and 30 minutes but if you only have 5 minutes, then just do 5.

4. Where will you do your practice? Most people do not have a dedicated yoga room but that doesn't matter. As Richard said in the film Eat Pray Love – “The meditation room is within.”  All you need is space long enough and wide enough for your mat and somewhere you will not be disturbed.

5. If you live with someone/some people tell them when you will be doing your practice and ask them to give you some space for that time. Get them to work with you and support you in your maintenance of your practice. Maybe even ask them to join you.

6. Don't beat yourself up if you can't stick to it. Do ask yourself why you couldn't stick to it and then adapt it and try again. It may take a few tries with the duration, style and frequency but don't give up. 

The Yoga Sutras (1.14) teach us that in order to secure our practice we need to maintain it for a long time, with dedication and from the heart. Let go of attachment to a goal and immerse yourself in the journey.

Yoga is an ongoing and continuous practice. Keep going. If you do, I guarantee you will feel the profound benefits and not only will you benefit but those around you will too.

If you would like some help in creating your own yoga practice I offer consultations to assist you in building your successful home practice. Email hello@handsonharmony.co.uk for more information.

* In my Yoga & Ayurveda workshops and consultations we delve into your unique constitution, which is wonderful for providing an insight into what you really need in your practice. For more information please visit www.jennydowlingyoga.com

Om shanti,

Jenny x

by Jenny Dowling - Jenny is passionate about yoga and yoga health. Her love of yoga began at the age of 11 when she was introduced to it  by her mother. When Jenny isn't teaching or recording classes for her online yoga members, she is busy looking after her little family (daughter, fiancé and Finnish Lapphund), walking in the nearby moorland or trying out new delicious Ayurvedic and vegan recipes. Connect with Jenny on Facebook or  Instagram.