How Yoga Can Help with Football Injuries

by Rosanna on December 7, 2020, no comments

Yoga for Sports and Football Injuries, Yoga in Liverpool
Photo: Michael Kirkham Photography

Injuries are a common problem in football and one that every player, manager and club dreads. A muscular one, such as a hamstring strain, could put footballers out for weeks or months at a time. A more serious joint one, such as an ACL tear to the ligament in the knee, could result in the player not coming back for the rest of the season. And whilst they are to some extent part and parcel of the sport and can’t be avoided, it’s always important to ask the question: “what can be done to help prevent such injuries from occurring?” and “how can we curb any unwanted stress and anxiety that can be caused by this?” There is so much potentially at stake. In particular with long-term injuries, it can affect a players’ position in the team, the game strategy for the season and even the eventual league table position. It’s no wonder that football is looking for some complimentary and science-based support.

Here are 5 ways Yoga can help to reduce the risk of injury and keep football players at peak fitness and feeling calm and centred on the pitch:

Warm up properly

The importance of a good warm-up can’t be understated. And that’s why so much time is spent in training getting ready for a game. Due to the demands of the sport and repetitive use of the leg muscles for movement, such as running and kicking, footballers need to increase and balance the strength and flexibility of the quadricep muscles at the front of the thigh with the hamstrings and glutes. The four quadriceps are used for extending the leg during shooting and passing, whilst the hamstrings are used for thrusting players forwards and sprinting. Hamstrings are often an area prone to injury, as they are needed for sudden acceleration.

In addition, footballers often have shortened, tight hip flexors due to kicking being a primary movement of the game. This, as well as weak glutes can then cause an anterior tilt in the pelvis pulling the hips forward, which can lead to lower back problems, pain and compression.      

A sport specific yoga routine designed for footballers can be beneficial in warming up. With a focus on getting energy levels up so that muscles can work optimally and efficiently and allowing free movement in the spine and joints. It’s important to look at what areas a footballer has become restricted in and what muscles have tightened up by assessing their unique ROM (range of motion) and stability, so that you can provide some dynamic stretching and functional movement for the individual player to increase their strength and flexibility, which means that they are less likely to get injured.


Due to the nature of the game, footballers use their dominant leg to kick and handle the ball. This can create an imbalance in the body, and the kicking foot and leg muscles can become stiffer and stronger due to repetitive movement, such as hip flexion, extension and rotation, knee extension (passing, kicking) and ankle flexion. The non-dominant leg will often be weaker, although less stiff and tight and will be used for balancing and stabilizing. It is at risk of injury if not conditioned the same, so yoga stretches and strengthening exercises for the glutes, hips and legs that place equal emphasis on both sides of the body can be useful.

Yoga can also be helpful for finding balance in yourself, as it works on the different aspects of a person. Balancing not only your physical body through a series of poses, but also helping to balance and clear your mind and regulate your emotions. There are many scenarios in a football match when this will be helpful, such as being able to find your ground and centre of gravity so you can perform different movements and come back to a stable base. It’s important as well to keep a cool head when the score’s not going your way and be able to manage your emotions when the pressure starts to mount.

A well-balanced yoga routine which works both sides of the body and aims to restore a players’ overall health and wellbeing will therefore be extremely beneficial, as it helps to address any muscular imbalances which can lead to injury and helps a player to feel balanced in themselves too.


It is crucial for footballers to learn proper breathing, as it can help you to come into the present moment and engage with your surroundings. Proper diaphragmatic breathing has many benefits: it can help to maintain good spinal health and functioning, keep you focused on your responsibilities in a game and drown out any distractions, such as the crowd. Yoga breathing can also help to connect you to your core through powerful exhalations which contract the abdominal wall and give you a sense of stability and a strong centre that you can move from.

As soon as you switch your focus to and slow and control your breath, you increase awareness. The mind then in turn becomes quieter and you are more present, so less likely to rush or get an injury through a late or misjudged tackle or a poor pass.

Mental awareness/sharpness

Through the discipline of yoga, a footballer can increase awareness of the body, what’s going on and how it relates to your choices on the pitch. A game can become like a moving meditation, so you key in on when you should speed up suddenly and use your calves and hamstrings and you have a clearer view of how the game is progressing. As well as getting in touch with different sensations in your body, yoga also helps you to become more aware of what’s happening in your mind. You can notice if, for example, when you are fatigued during a game, your mind wanders off and help to bring it back into the here and now through mindful awareness.

You can also notice when negative thoughts occur and try replacing them with positive ones more quickly. If you are getting stressed, you can feel your heart rate and blood pressure increase and make a conscious decision to use your yoga breathing to find some calm and space. You are then in a better position to stay focused on the game plan without an injury.


Recovery is a key part of the game cycle and shouldn’t be optional. It’s an opportunity for the body and mind to rest fully. A packed schedule can make it more tricky, but it’s still important to find time.

There are specific yoga techniques that can help footballers to relax and unwind, such as a progressive muscle relaxation or a guided body scan where you use attention to and awareness of sensations in the body to release mental as well as physical tension. These yoga practices activate the parasympathetic nervous system (the opposite of fight or flight), a state in which you can rest and digest everything from the previous game.

The calming and non-competitive yoga environment enables footballers to switch off and let go. It’s a safe space to just be yourself, without any pressures or judgments where you can process your feelings. A guided visualisation, using specific mental imagery is another useful technique for relaxation and you can imagine yourself playing in an upcoming game and feel and go through the movement patterns required so that when the game comes these can be brought to mind and you’re feeling confident.

Post-match recovery yoga can help you to feel more relaxed and in a more positive frame of mind, meaning that you are less prone to fatigue, muscle tightness and soreness and injury.

These are just a few ways that yoga can help to avoid the possibility of a football injury. They can help to ensure that as little time as possible is spent away from the pitch and training field, and more doing what you love: your chosen sport that keeps your mind engaged, your heart pounding and puts that fire in your belly.

Need some help with a football injury or are you looking for a complimentary practice to support your training? I offer Sports Yoga Classes here in Liverpool for help with good movement patterns, injury prevention and recovery and mental focus. Get in touch via the Contact page for details.

Yoga and Football: the Perfect Match

by Rosanna on July 9, 2019, no comments

Football Yoga, Sports, Liverpool
Get your head-er in the game

Yoga is increasingly coming into sport and professional football, in particular over the last 10 years and more and more clubs, including Liverpool FC and Everton FC and individual players are taking up the ancient practice to improve their sporting ability and move more freely with increased flexibility, strength and stamina. In addition, yoga can help to prevent injuries, as well as recover more quickly and is a great complimentary tool for mental, as well as physical health.

Top footballers such as Ryan Giggs and David Beckham have sworn by the benefits of yoga and how it helped them in the professional game to increase longevity in the career. During the World Cup 2018, in which Gareth Southgate led England into the semi-finals in Russia, the England team benefited from practising yoga stretches, breathing exercises and relaxation techniques at camp as part of their recovery between games to unwind and relax, and find calm to help to cope with the pressures that come with playing at such a high level in public view.

Recently there was the Royal Team Talk where Prince William met with Gareth Southgate, Peter Crouch and other top players, as well as fans to open up and talk about their mental health issues. Since football can be a competitive and tough environment to be in, due to both internal and external pressures and expectations, there’s a real need for something to counterbalance this. The yoga room is a nurturing space, where thoughts, feelings and emotions can be contained and processed, without fear of judgment. Footballers can take time out on the mat to stretch, breathe and develop good self-esteem and confidence, so they feel supported no matter what the result is on game day.

Liverpool striker Mo Salah caught the public’s attention this April when he adopted a yoga pose after a win against Chelsea. In an interview on BBC Radio Merseyside, I discussed his celebration tree pose and the key benefits of yoga for professional footballers ahead of the Champions League Final in Madrid last month, in which Liverpool FC brought home the trophy for the 6th time in their win against Tottenham. Listen to the interview here:

BBC Radio Merseyside, Yoga, Champions League

And football is not only a man’s game. Women’s Football is gaining more recognition and interest now than ever before, with record-breaking numbers viewing the FIFA Women’s World Cup this summer which took place in France. All eyes were on the calm and composed Lionesses, whose team included Liverpool-born Toni Duggan and Nikita Paris from Toxteth playing in the semi-final on Tuesday against USA. They have certainly inspired a nation and displayed great form and talent, showing that women can be strong, fiery and equal to men. Phil Neville, their coach was clearly proud and said they had left their ‘hearts and souls on the pitch’. The England team used yoga as a way to breathe and relax between games. An excellent way to take time out, and stay focused too.

Women's Football, Yoga, Liverpool
Women’s Football is gaining momentum

In seeing and then experiencing for themselves the benefits of yoga, more football players of all levels are committing to a regular practice. I spoke with a couple of my students here in Liverpool who attend weekly classes and find yoga helpful for reasons including warming up properly, injury prevention, relaxation and improved sleep.

Yoga, prevent injuries, Liverpool

“I have been coming to the Tuesday evening class at the Innovation Park for around 6 or so months now, and find it very beneficial as a footballer; all the stretching, in particular anything for the adductors, and strengthening poses. Yoga has helped me a lot with preventing any injuries.” Dave Abram

And Dave, from Monday’s city centre Gentle Yoga class describes how he could have benefited from yoga during his football years.

Yoga for sleep, injury prevention, Everton FC

“I have been playing football since I was a young lad, around 10 years old. I used to play at Vernon Sangster and Sunday League in Anfield. I love football, and I wish I had done yoga then as there wasn’t a match when I didn’t carry an injury in my ankle, back etc. Yoga helps to strengthen your body, relieve aches and pains, with breathing as I suffer from asthma and better sleep.” Dave Morgan, Everton FC Supporter

There’s no doubt that yoga can help footballers, both on and off the pitch to perform well, relax and develop a positive mindset, as well as keep injuries and anxieties at bay. The two together are definitely a winning team! Whether it’s playing socially or professionally and everything in between, yoga is starting to get the credit it deserves in the football world as it is adaptable in nature, backed by science and complimentary to training.

Do you play football, and looking to improve your sporting ability? Interested in increasing flexibility or strength or do you have an injury? Or perhaps it’s the mental side of the game you’d like some help with. Check out the Sports Yoga page here or get in touch via the Contact page. I look forward to helping you get your head-er in the game!

Yoga: 5 Reasons Why We Care

by Rosanna on June 20, 2019, no comments

Image: Gordon Johnson, Pixabay

This Friday 21st June is International Yoga Day (Yoga Day), the 5th of its kind having been introduced in 2015 by the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). The Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his UN address put forward the date as it had symbolic meaning with being the longest day of the year, Summer Solstice.

Yogis all over the world will gather together in a shared devotion to the ancient practice which has origins in India. There will be different classes, events and celebrations happening to mark the special day. Thousands of yogis will be stretching, saluting to the sun, meditating and om-ing in harmony with the rhythms of nature and their love of yoga.

And it’s no wonder too that yoga is gaining in momentum, and its popularity is spreading wide and fast. An estimated 300,00 to 460,000 people now practise yoga in the UK alone, and organisations such as the British Wheel of Yoga, which is recognised by the Sports Councils as the national governing body for yoga in the UK are providing thorough training for keen and inspired practitioners. Yoga, with its myriad of health benefits now supports various health care providers.

Here are 5 reasons why we yogis so passionately care:

1. Yoga creates an instant feel-good, and students often leave feeling more relaxed, clear-headed and calmer than before. Similarly to having a massage, you can come away lighter, taller and more energised yet calm.

2. The yoga space provides a physical refuge and a space ‘to be’, rest and recuperate away from all the stresses and pressures of everyday living. Whether it’s family concerns, busy work schedules or feeling over-teched.

3. Being in a warm, nurturing space can help you to feel and release emotions in a safe environment. When you feel anger, joy, happiness or sadness etc, the yoga room supports your ability to truly ‘feel’ and be where you are with less fear or overwhelm.

4. Mindful attention to your self and inner landscape can help to develop self-awareness. By slowing things down and focusing on your breath and the movements, you are then able to go more slowly into your day and therefore make more considered choices.

5. By practising yoga, you can gain compassion and acceptance towards yourself, and others. Coming to a yoga class helps you to feel part of a community, even if its just with the support of your teacher. You can find more ease in your self and then in shared community and spaces.

There has been great progress with yoga coming into health care and the UK National Health Service. The Yoga in Health Care Alliance (YIHA), a social enterprise enabling the NHS to provide yoga to its patients are doing tremendous work in bridging the gap between yoga teachers and the NHS. Since there is now increasingly more science-based research taking place on the benefits of yoga for society, we’re able to rely on something more sturdy and therefore convincing. Yoga is gaining recognition for both prevention and management of different health conditions.

“The time is right for the UK to set an international example and become the first nation to fully embed yoga into the national healthcare system. While there’s still work to do, we’ve made some excellent progress.” Yoga in the NHS, The Minded Institute

We care about yoga and the advancements we’re seeing of bringing yoga into health care and education because we yogis hold a shared vision for what society, and the world could be like if more people were to experience its benefits. Its once perhaps over-idealistic portrayal is now very realistic and grounded in science. It’s happening! The message of yoga is spreading, and there’s no stopping it.

Interested in learning how Yoga can benefit you and help strengthen your self-care? Find Yoga Classes here in Liverpool or get in touch via the Contact page.

Want to celebrate Summer Solstice in Liverpool? Squash cafe on Windsor street is welcoming the community from dawn 4.30am for a celebration including yoga, a gong bath and free breakfast. Info here

10 Years on the Mat – My Yoga Journey

by Rosanna on November 29, 2018, 2 comments

On the Milldown, Blandford Forum Dorset, 2008

I’ve been practising yoga now for 11 years, since 2007 when I was 21. I started going to classes at university during my 4th year at Leeds studying French and Philosophy. It was when I had returned from my year abroad teaching English as a Language Assistant in Paris.

Paris came at the right time for me. Whilst I loved and fully embraced the first two years of uni life: my friends, nights out, independence – I was also struggling a lot with my mental health and depression. I found the lack of routine difficult and drinking was taking its toll on my health. I would be up one minute and very low the next. And I needed to take time out for it, just to try and cope with my moods and feel a sense of stability.

Enjoying uni life, first year at Leeds

Paris was an opportunity to live differently and engage with a different side of myself. I went to the gym every day, played tennis and ran, as well as eating healthily and stopping drinking. Getting a good sleep was key too for my wellbeing. A lot of these techniques were not new to me, but ones I had adopted as a teenager in managing my moods then too when I first experienced depression. It was wonderful to create a peaceful and calm internal environment to match the backdrop and serenity of Paris, a city I fell in love with. I learnt you can change your habits and behviours to correspond with a reality you wanted to have.

Finding a sense of purpose teaching in Paris

Being in the classroom gave me a sense of purpose and confidence. I enjoyed the responsibility and seeing my students grow and find their potential. One morning, when chatting with the school receptionist, he handed me a card for ‘Sahaja Yoga’ and said I should give it a go. I remember thinking he was an angel and it was a sign from the Universe, the next step for me on a much desired spiritual path.

Back at uni, I joined my friends in going to yoga with a very inspiring teacher Claire. It was dissertation year and I needed some extra support. And from my first class, I was hooked and called my mum to say I wanted to be a yoga teacher. The sense of peace and calm that I got was profound, a connection with my self and It felt like the pieces of the puzzle were fitting together. Yoga instantly became a firm anchor in my life, something I could depend on for strength, energy and a lift I craved.

The path into the wild world of yoga began…

In my all-or-nothing way, I did yoga every day and went to tons of classes. I ate a vegan no-sugar diet, tried to live by the doshas and Ayurvedic principles the best I could and read a lot of books… I was so focused and passionate that I found it hard to concentrate on my degree! It was heartbreaking for me that I couldn’t study yoga for my dissertation. I thought “If I’ve found what makes me happy, what’s the point of anything else?” The mat gave me the promise of a safe space to help control my moods and express my often overwhelming emotions. On the mat, I was fine.

After uni, I did a Yoga course in London and learnt about setting up a yoga business from my friend Fiona. I started practising meditation, which gave me an invaluable tool to help clear my mind and connect with something deeper. But again, I struggled with my mental health and my depression returned. So I went to Dorset for some time out to be with my parents and relax and feel better. Whilst yoga was helping me a lot to find balance and happiness, my approach to it was somewhat unbalanced and rigid, and I felt disconnected to other parts of my self, my friends and things that were important to me.

“Maybe yoga wasn’t the answer to everything?” it was revealed to me. So I continued to teach in schools, working as a Teaching Assistant in a local Primary School based on a military camp in Blandford Forum. And since my passion for yoga was still there, just I had loosened the grip, did a Foundation Course with the British Wheel of Yoga. It’s a lesson I’ve learnt over and over that there’s not one thing that will make you happy, but a combination of things. It’s hard to let go of wanting something that makes you feel good to be the answer to all your problems. Contentment and stability are important too.

Home practice in Dorset

Unsure of the right path to take and best way to make a living, I decided to do a Primary PGCE in Reading, alongside my Yoga Teacher Training with the BWY. I got back into running that year and trained towards the Amsterdam marathon, which was a positive focus at the time and I found the combination of yoga and running helpful in managing the stress and intensity of the course. Afterwards, I moved to Cambridge to live near to family and did supply teaching whilst setting up my yoga classes. Being self-employed can feel lonely at times, so it was good also to do office work and build a network with local teachers for support and friendship.

It was important to me to feel together. In a sort of “Right, let’s get on now, enough is enough” way. I was determined not to let my moods bring me down or interfere too much with my life or work. But health issues have a way of showing up again and again until you address them properly.

I met Alex in one of the schools I was teaching at when I was 25. He was a teaching assistant and was kind and a lovely person. In my vulnerability with him, it was soon apparent that I wasn’t OK, and he supported me in going to counselling and CBT for my depression. I wanted to try to treat it without medication if possible (although of course for some this is a viable option). I knew it wouldn’t be easy, but it was worth trying. All the sadness and pain that I was holding tightly in started coming out, and there was no escaping it. I just needed to feel my emotions and speak about what was going on in order to truly heal.

Returning to Paris with Alex and friends

Time is a healer. Talking therapies have been a major support for me over the years. As well as friends and family who I’m so grateful to for being there. I had two years of person-centered counseling and still use my CBT techniques today to help combat negative thinking, such as “taking your thoughts to court” as a way of questioning the truth of the thoughts that enter my mind. I try to identify my feelings and let them out in a healthy way one capful at a time so they don’t fizz up and explode. I realised I was too hard on myself and needed to be kinder and more compassionate, in the same way that I was with my students. I learnt it was ok and not shameful to admit you’re struggling and we all need support.

I started teaching more one-to-one classes and discovered that this was a good setting for a lot of people to explore how yoga could help them individually in a safe and supportive environment. Yes, we often have goals and aims in yoga, but we also need to know we’re ok today as we are and work towards loving ourselves. I did a Yoga for Mental Health course recently to provide extra skills to help people in the area I’m most passionate about, which I want to continue with.

Teaching yoga on Mill Road in Cambridge

Alex and I moved to Liverpool in 2016 to live closer to his family and for a change. It seemed like a fun and vibrant city and it’s not let me down! I have carried on teaching privately mainly, so I can offer yoga to people so that it can be an anchor in their lives when needed and a part of their wellbeing toolkit.

One to one yoga space on Rodney street, Liverpool

As I look back over the years, I’ve learnt how beneficial yoga can be to keep you standing still and strong, as well as being a safe haven and a net to support you when you fall down or apart. There’s no one way to do yoga or use for it – only your own and what makes sense for you on your personal journey. I’ve also learnt you can help people and show up even when it’s hard and you’re struggling yourself. Your pain can be your gift, as you can feel empathy and compassion for others deeply and so be a support for them. I believe in the possibility of change and transformation and the power to grow and heal. Never give up.

I look forward to the next 10 years on the mat, with curiosity and an open mind, as well as hope and excitement.

Will you show up in 2015?

by Rosanna on June 25, 2015, no comments

RoYoga Keeping it up

photo credit: Stuart F Taylor, Writer & Illustrator, London UK

“Erm, Rosanna, it’s June already. Summer Solstice was last week and we’re halfway through the year. Isn’t this the sort of question people ask in January, at New Year’s?”

Yes. And often it is. Followed by a string of add-on questions, like:


be the best version of you?”

get super fit and achieve that dream bod you’ve always wanted?”

stay motivated DAILY, keeping to all your deadlines?”

We ask ourselves (and let others tell us) to be on top, wonderful, perfect all day long. The stakes go high, and it’s no surprise we fall.

Motivational when the comfort of Winter has it’s grip? Yes, up to a point. Pressurising and a tad unrealistic? A little too.

Just be you – warts and all

Well, I want to take the pressure off. Back track a little, and just ask you the first question, because chances are your humanness got in the way of your wild hopes and plans for 2015, and the rocket you intended to zoom through the year on got a wing tear. So, my question is, simply: Will you show up in 2015? And then my pen goes down. I’m asking you to join us as you are, in knowing that’s OK; you’re wonderful right now and before you aim into the night for super toned arms and rock solid abs. I’m asking you to join us when you feel less than, as well as on top; cranky as well as chirpy; heavy as well as light.

Let’s take the pressure down a notch, and forget about that “glow” you see on the models in the magazines. Let yourself off the hook a bit, and roll your mat out on rainy days as well as bright ones. It can hold you, you know, warts and all.

Question: Will you give yourself a softer time and let yourself (and all versions of) be seen?

Because it’s easy to love ourselves when we’re achieving our goals, in shape and the “us” we’re happy for our friends to know. But what about when we’re not? When we’re in overwhelm, sadness or breaking down. Society might say we need to keep things together, but that’s in forgetting or masking all parts of ourselves, which there really is nothing wrong with. Our angry, just coping and down days – these are times to show our faces too, and in order to receive the extra care and attention we need to remind us we’re whole. Something or someone to hold us and whisper in our ear we’re still beautiful.

We live in a time of many pressures, right? And yoga can be something to help us, and take the pressure off. Let’s not walk past this golden opportunity, in seeing it as something that it’s not. Let’s do our best to keep the integrity of yoga, as a practice for peace and calm, energy and freedom.

So, next time you find yourself with a long list of “shoulds” and “should nots” for the yoga room – stop and think. No need to go into debt buying all the latest trendy outfits or hit the treadmill in order to lose a few pounds before arriving in class. Sweetie, you’re perfect as you are – and it’s time to have an adventure.

Just put your comfy gear on and come as you are, right now – whatever that may be. And when you get here, you’ll reliase we’re all the same anyway – some just hide their warts better than others.

Dear Dee (Depression)

by Rosanna on May 19, 2015, 2 comments

Dear Dee

photo credit: Stuart F Taylor, Writer & Illustrator, London UK

Life with a mental illness by yoga teacher Rosanna Gordon

There’s been a lot in the media lately around the topic of mental health. More and more people are coming out of the closet and opening up about this condition. It’s good for us to develop a better understanding and have a strong dialogue on this subject, since 1 in 4 of us will suffer a mental health condition at some point in our lives. So let’s stay informed and connected.

There seems to be a certain amount of ‘shame’ attached to yoga teachers who admit suffering from depression, as well as other mental illnesses. Perhaps because they should be ‘sorted’ and well. I am one of those yoga teachers, who is suffering and I too have felt shame.

Dear Dee,

It’s been a while, huh? You and me together. I first felt your presence when I was 15, like a darkness had come over me. I was anorexic and deeply saddened by things going on around and inside me. You were very real.

At times, you left. I was ‘normal’ again. Able to have fun with friends and laugh without feeling trapped in my own head, overcome with negative thoughts and extreme emotions that I just didn’t know how to handle. Where did you go?

You’re a crafty one! Making me run and swim so fast I couldn’t see you for the trees! Or the bright light, the joy. I thought I had shaken you off, you’d gone and left me. I thought this was possible, to ditch you and do it alone, be strong.

You came back though. Again and again, in a cyclical pattern. That familiar, melancholic feeling returned year after year. You were there with me right through university, my yoga training and the setting up of my yoga business. You stalled me, remember? I had to take considerable chunks of time out of work and life, just to try and make sense of you and your incessant hold on me – why were you in my life? Was it down to my early exposure to mental illness? My genes? Or plain living in an imperfect world? The CBT and Counselling I’ve had has been wonderful in helping to understand where you came from and your purpose in my life. I don’t have the answer as to ‘why’ you’re here exactly, but I’ve learnt to accept you – let you stay. You can kip on my shoulder, and we’ll do things together.

You know, when I went to CBT, it took me until the third session (out of six) to tell my therapist that I was a yoga teacher. Crazy! You had your hold, big time. It was that day I couldn’t leave the house and had to call instead, knowing I needed to reach out. “I’m a yoga teacher” I cried down the phone, feeling shame and alone. I should be sorted, I thought. This depression has been going on for too long! I’ve done everything under the sun to shake it (you) off and I’m in a position of responsibility. You had your grip right, Dee? And I felt weak, like I wasn’t doing my best. I didn’t want people to see you.

I know now that there’s no shame in you being here. Whether you join me on the mat or on the road, I really let you in. I’m one of the four sufferers who has a mental health condition. Label me up! ‘Recurrent depression’ is what they’ve named you, did you know that? Did you know that’s what they call you Dee and why you leave? I’m happy for people to catch a glimpse of you and know your name. I’m not afraid anymore. And maybe you’re not so bad after all… I mean, you’ve taught me great amounts of empathy and compassion for others who suffer similarly. You make me look for the light in things, and in fact, I’m not sure I want you to go.

This isn’t the end Dee. You and me. We’ll travel the road longer together. Only now, I have better insight and more strength. I’m going to help others with “Dee’s” too! I wonder what they call you, I mean ‘their’ Dee… I’ll train in yoga therapy for mental health – and help others who are learning to live with Dee’s too. Yeah, that feels good.

Rosanna Gordon is a British Wheel of Yoga (BWY) Teacher & Freelance Writer. She runs group & one-to-one yoga classes in Liverpool UK & plans to specialise in yoga for depression. For info, visit

Make Yoga Yours, Not Hers

by Rosanna on April 15, 2015, no comments


photo credit: Stuart F Taylor, Illustrator & Writer, London UK

‘What is yoga?’

Such a good question! And for everyone, it’s something slightly different.

“A place to breathe, time out of a busy day, a good workout, sweaty fun, my calm and spiritual practice…”

Everyone’s got a unique interpretation of this ancient practice, and you can find just about every version imaginable of yoga these days: Traditional Yoga, Yoga for Runners, SUP (Standup Paddleboard) Yoga, Snowga, Club Yoga, Flowmotion Yoga… You name it, it’s there!

Now really is the perfect time to explore what’s on offer, and find a suitable style for you. And I’m thinking, your style just mightn’t be the same as your

…Friend Whether she’s an Ashtangi or likes it hot – Bikram style, you and your best pal might not have the exact yoga style in common. Perhaps you could go to a few classes together, then branch out and do it solo, choosing a class that really appeals to you personally. It’ll invite great discussion topics: prop central vs mat only, what the chants actually mean and finding your unique position on vegetarianism in yoga. Plus, who knows – you might meet some new yoga buds in that Antigravity Yoga class you’ve always wanted to try!

…Teacher Teacher’s word is gospel, right? Well, not always. Instructions and teachings are there to guide you, keep you safe and offer you a point of reference along the yoga journey, but there will be times you disagree with what your teacher is saying. Maybe their interpretation of the yamas and niyamas is a bit old school for you, you would prefer silence in the class instead of ‘atmospheric’ hippy music or perhaps you just don’t think your back will arch any more once letting go of limiting beliefs! You never know, your teacher might actually want you to question their position on things, stimulating interesting conversation.

…Inspirer How wonderful is it when you find someone you really resonate with? Their personality shines, and offering suits you down to a tee. With this Yogi, you wait on their every word and asana, wanting to shout “yes” to the rooftops each time they speak! Amazing – but it’s also important not to get too carried away with seeing their brilliance that it casts a shadow over yours. Find time to tap into your own strength and energy, allowing space for your unique voice and yoga to emerge. Inspire you, yes. Replace you and your yoga, no.

…Former Self There’ll be changes along the yoga journey. What you’re drawn to today might not resemble the same as it did 5 or 10 years ago. A daily practice may have become more now and again, or even time out to gain a new perspective. Notice if you’re keen for a strong or gentle practice, morning or evening. Staying open is key, and being able to go with the flow – especially if things seem a little stagnant or same-old.

Let time and exploration lead you to your style, or many! Whether you choose to Om, eat vegan or opt for a more restorative practice… put your own flavour on yoga, so that it brings you, as an individual, alive, more peace, balance…. whatever you’re looking for in yoga, I guess.

Feeling down? Why Yoga Can Help

by Rosanna on March 26, 2015, no comments


photo credit: Stuart F Taylor, Illustrator & Writer, London UK

Has a dark cloud come over you? Your mood fallen low, and it feels impossible to break free?

Maybe you’re able to get on with everyday things; life and work – only the meaning has gone, and there’s a sinking feeling in your stomach. Or perhaps it’s a struggle just getting out of bed in the morning, and any hope of a bright future is slowly slipping from your fingertips.

1 in 4 of us will experience a mental health problem at some point in our lives, depression and anxiety being the most common. Things (life) can become hard to handle, even unbearable at times, and it sometimes feels like nothing will ever lift us up.

What can be done?

It’s important to know you’re not alone, when you feel this way. Whilst symptoms vary hugely from person to person, many others are in a similar boat. Feeling trapped, struggling mentally and wanting a solution. With help from your family and doctor, you can create a “feel-good” path to suit you – which will look different for everyone, and include a unique selection of therapies, lifestyle factors and perhaps medication to help balance and lift your mood.

It’s important to be kind to yourself as you get going again, especially if motivation has drawn to a halt. One step at a time, being compassionate all the way.

Yoga can be a very beneficial tool for helping to improve your mood, bring better quality of life, and see away the darker days. Here are 3 ways it can help:

How Yoga Can Help


A wonderful aspect of yoga is the community feel you get in practising in a group environment. There’s a sense of belonging with like-minded people, doing something positive for your well-being. And this contact can help take you away from your own head and thinking, and bring in new perspectives. Look for a group class, where you feel inspired and uplifted by the presence of others. Or book a series of one-to-one sessions/a workshop where you can benefit emotionally, as well as mentally from speaking with others.


Feeling down for any length of time is pretty miserable, and often all-consuming. Sometimes you need something “else” to come in and break this attachment. Doing yoga can be a welcome break from the goings on in your mind. By coming into your body, the stretches and breathing exercises have the power to instantly draw you into the present moment, making you aware of how you feel physically and what/where you’re stretching, opening, releasing etc.


Whilst having depression is not a sign of weakness, it can often feel so. You can get overcome with self-blame and attack for feeling this way. So it’s a good idea to do something to remind yourself of your strength and confidence. In Warrior 2, really feel the strength and tone of your legs and arms. Take a moment to truly notice the sensation in your core in Spinal Twists and be entirely present to your whole body strength in Downward Dog.

Next time you feel down, and your mood begins to spiral – take a moment to acknowledge this to yourself. Let it in – and then do something positive to help yourself feel better. In time, your mood will shift and the light will start to come back in. Stay hopeful.

What do you couple your yoga with to feel good?

by Rosanna on March 11, 2015, no comments

Yoga Activ

photo credit: Stuart F Taylor, Illustrator & Writer, London UK

Often times when you’re feeling down, flat, achy… or in some way in pain or uncomfortable, yoga can help you feel better. Many of us have experienced this ‘change’ yoga brings from the start of the class when you arrive to the end when you relax. Taller, happier, more aligned.

Whether it’s the space to breathe, the “me time” or the physical stretches you need – yoga has got the goods.

“Ahh I feel great. Looser in my body and calmer in my mind.”

Not every time, of course. There are times the mat just holds you (your emotions and feelings) and offers you a break. Not to be in any particular way, but that that you are. I’ve also heard students say:

“I don’t feel good, just a bit better.” or “Well, I’m not disappointed…”

And that’s OK too. It’s OK not to feel great after every yoga session! This cannot be the expectation. Sometimes you will, and sometimes you won’t. Yoga (or anything for that matter) is not a ‘cure all’ or a remedy for all of our aches and pains, illnesses and dis-ease. However, that said, it’s no lie that yoga can help a darn lot of people. I’ve seen it, I’ve felt it and more and more studies are emerging offering us proof.

Feel good tool box

So, yoga can be one way to help you feel better. It may be a go-to tool that you use to lift your spirit or take away the soreness in your back. It’s nice to have a tool kit. A mix of things you can do to boost feel-good, and therefore the quality of your life. Everyone’s tool box will look a bit different.

And I’m curious – what do you couple your yoga with to help you feel good? What else contributes to your mental, physical and emotional health?

I asked my students this question, and here’s what they said:

“Apart from yoga, I dance tango (not very well!) and sometimes salsa (also not very well!). For me, dancing is a form of mindfulness. It’s the one thing that takes my mind off everything. A regular dose is more about keeping a healthy mind than a healthy body. It always makes me feel good.” Yoga Student

“In addition to my yoga, I attend outdoor exercise classes on Jesus Green – as well as being physically challenging, I get a simple child-like pleasure from running around in a park getting covered in mud! I also enjoy rock-climbing. I find the feeling of moving over rock meditative and mentally all-consuming – when mind and body are flowing together, there’s nothing like it to clear the head and make me feel good.” Claire Davey, Business Support Officer, OCR, Cambridge

and fellow yoga teacher Nadia Cowlan (Ananda Bliss) too:

“Alongside Yoga, I generally seem to do a lot of gigging and enjoying the little things in life, yep very cliche! I love long walks with my dog ‘Bear’, and also spend time composing. I’m working towards an album of Yoga inspired music at present.” Nadia Cowlan, Yoga Teacher & Compulsive Giggler

Lovely! A real combination. As for me, I like walking and attend a weekly counseling session. Both activities offer a space for me to breathe and process how I feel in a healthy way. The fresh air, I find soothing and talking things through in a contained environment, very therapeutic. Without a doubt, these practices lead to a clearer, calmer mind.

Yoga and … (fill in the gap)

Now, over to you. What practices/activities do you do alongside your yoga that help you feel good? Do share so we can inspire each other in offering our suggestions, as well as acknowledge to ourselves the things that we do in contribution to our health and well-being.

I can’t bend that way!

by Rosanna on February 26, 2015, no comments

Forward Foldphoto credit: Stuart F Taylor, Illustrator & Writer, London UK

Ever find yourself in a yoga class, struggling with a certain posture? Looking around the room, observing other students move more gracefully into what can only be described as ‘perfect poses’? Backs completely flat in Seated Forward Bend, noses to knees, beautiful arches in Camel pose, gazes on the wall behind, and legs neatly crossed in Lotus pose, knees to the floor. The icing on the cake is when your yoga teacher leads a demo, and it just stops you in your tracks. Jaw dropped, you utter to yourself:

“I can’t bend that way!”

Maybe you’re new to the group, and know there’s a little way to go. More ‘stretch’ and attention to be had, which in time will release tense muscles, surely? Or perhaps you’ve been coming to yoga for a while now, and… there just seems to be some things/poses your body won’t be able to do! Either way, the ability others have is starting to perplex you and fill you with a nasty heavy feeling in your stomach, which before long leaves you standing in a well of inadequacy.

“Why doesn’t my Cobra/Downward Dog/Wheel pose… look that way?” “Is there something wrong with me?”

You’re not alone

Firstly, it’s important to know that you’re not alone. You may think so when you’re stuck in the well, and you can’t see out. But rest assured, there are countless others who experience the same thing as you do and feel similarly. It’s normal to be restricted, and not meet a particular ‘standard’.

We all have our personal limitations in yoga, and it’s good to have an idea of ‘what can be improved or worked on’ and ‘what just ain’t gonna change’, due to our make-up and the way we’re born. And maybe – we’re holding too tightly to the idea of perfect poses anyway, and it’s time to loosen our grip, so the definition of yoga isn’t skewed by our attachment to beauty and physical form.

What restricts us?

We’re all unique – and so is our yoga

One thing we can say is we’re all different. We come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Our bone structures and proportions are unique. Such a blessing, eh? Part of the yoga journey is understanding and seeing the way you are, on a physical, mental and emotional level. When you get on the mat and focus in, you notice your right side moves and feels differently to your left, you may be tighter or stronger in one muscles group to another… Things become clearer through yoga.

Gaining peace of mind

Whether or not you can go further in a pose can be put down to a few things. In his popular DVD, The “Anatomy for Yoga” Yoga Teacher Paul Grilley explains how different we all are in our skeletons, anatomically. He shares his wisdom and knowledge about how and why we move differently in yoga:

“There’s a real need in the yoga community to have a deeper understanding how anatomical differences affect our yoga practices” Grilley

Through demonstrations, Grilley highlights the point that no two people are the same. Due to our different anatomical structures, we move uniquely. Two key concepts Grilley introduces are ‘Tension’ and ‘Compression’. When working in yoga postures, you can be met with either tensile or compressive stress. Tensile: something that can be stretched more or is tight, compressive: when two bones hit each other, and there’s no way further to go.

Tension or Compression?

For example, in Cat Stretch, Grilley shows that the arch of your lower back moving towards the floor will depend on your skeleton. A large arch (inward curve) in your lower back means your belly will dip further to the ground as you breathe in. Whereas, if there’s a far smaller inward curve, the arch will be less obvious. Everyone’s Cat pose will look a bit different, due to when compression occurs and how the muscles are being worked.

A second example he gives, and one I’m personally familiar with, is how far towards the ground your heels come in Downward Dog. For me, it’s always been a challenge to place them down, despite spending some time in this pose and stretching the leg muscles. My gut feeling, that they weren’t going to come down, was first confirmed by my Tutor Mary Mackie during Teacher Training, who, on analysis, explained that it was due to compression in my ankle joint. This was recently supported too by fellow Cambridge-based Yoga Teacher Sally Lander:

“When you, Rosanna, do a Lunge pose, you can see that in trying to move the front knee as far over your toes as possible, the angle remains close to 90 degrees. The shape of the bones and the way your foot meets the shin causes the angle to be too large for the heel to be down in Downward Dog. This will also occur in poses such as Squat and is due to compression in the ankle joint.” Sally Lander

When Compression occurs, bones meet bones, and you’ve already stretched your muscles fully, what you end up with is your yoga pose. Kinda nice, huh? Having it’s own shape and appearance.

The next example refers to another one of Grilley’s key concepts: ‘Proportion’. Something else that plays a role in our yoga practice. Our bodies have different proportions, eg ‘femur (thigh bone) to torso’ or ‘arm to torso’. In Triangle pose, you may need the aid of a block if even at full tilt of your pelvis and maximum lateral flexion of your spine, your arm still won’t meet the ground! If it’s not a tensile or compressive matter, it could be down to the comparative length of your arm in relation to your torso/legs. Block, anyone?

The final example is of a yoga pose which is commonly met with difficulty and self-critical dialogue: Seated Forward Bend (see image above). There are several factors which could restrict you here to create pose perfect: tight hamstrings, lower back or hips, short arms and long legs to name a few! Yoga Teacher Rachel Hawes explains:

“Over the last decade of teaching yoga, I’ve noticed every body is unique. Some hamstrings have the ability to stretch, and with a little practice, forward folding will be a breeze. Some people, not so much and after years of practice our heads may still be nowhere near our knees. It’s all about our personal physiology. That’s OK though. Reaching Nirvana isn’t dependent on where you put your head but rather by letting go of the pre-existing thoughts and conditioning you keep inside there.” Rachel Hawes

So, next time you find yourself scrunching up your face, muttering the oh-so-common phrase: “I can’t bend that way!” – know that it’s OK. And if you look around you, clearly, you’ll see we’re all in the same boat. We don’t need to achieve ‘perfect poses’. Or rather, what we need to do is work on changing the definition.