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10 Minutes with Claire Cunningham

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We are well into the New Year now, with many of us having forgotten our best intentions of ‘new year, new you’ already! How do you set yourself up for a new year ahead?

There is always a huge surge of people coming to yoga classes in January, fresh with that New Year’s motivation. It’s lovely to see. To maintain my own motivation I choose one word that can be an inspiration for the whole year. I sit quietly and let the word arrive to me rather than over-thinking. Then it grows into my buzz word/intention for the whole year. I also like to book in some workshops or a retreat so that I know my teaching and practice can be refreshed.

Can you talk about your life in dance and how it came to be that you chose this path?

My life in dance was sprinkled with yoga and bodywork learning. In my twenties, I studied with the European School of Shiatsu and enjoyed going to The Life Centre for yoga, in addition to my working day. However, when I moved to Belgium to work with Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, I found that yoga classes were a large part of the company schedule and that was so refreshing. After I did my first yoga teacher training I incorporated this knowledge into my roles as a rehearsal director for various companies, as well as specifically teaching yoga for dancers and open classes. So yoga has always been a part of my life in dance.

Tell us a little bit more about how and why you became interested in yoga practice…did you find it or it you?

My mother was a homeopath so I grew up surrounded by interesting health practitioners and books. I was drawn specifically to yoga and bodywork because it always helped me to manage quite a demanding career in dance.

Why do you think yoga is good for dancers?

I personally love the balance of strength and length that yoga provides the physical body. Also the emphasis on a breath-lead practice, which brings a sense of grounding and spaciousness. It shifts the energy and clears blockages both mentally and physically. Yoga provides a quiet space for feeling or ‘tuning in’ to what is happening on each particular day. Then we can return to our dance practice with that new information, perhaps working with the additional layers of speed, counts, kinetics, interaction etc. The element of self-care, which is inherent in yoga, seems to be very valuable and appreciated to the dancers that I teach.

Can you tell us a bit more about the ways in which you embed your practice within your day or week?

I teach or practice in the morning and try to attend two classes per week. An evening meditation or yoga nidra (deep, guided relaxation) greatly increases the quality of my sleep so that is always a pleasure, too.

Can you tell us what a person attending your Winter Warmer workshop with us might expect of the session?

Even though we are into February, we’ll set an intention for the year. A simple, one-word intention that can be a thread throughout the workshop and 2019. We will do a dynamic yoga practice and warm up the kidney/bladder energy lines through the body as these areas can get cold and depleted in the winter months. This will be followed by some lovely yoga assists / partner stretches to feel nurtured and finish with yoga nidra/relaxation.

If someone is new to yoga do you have any top tips to help them get started on their journey?

Try several classes and teachers to see what makes you feel well and inspired, then choose and study one style for a period of time to really understand the practice in more detail.

Book for Claire Cunningham's Yoga Winter Warmer Workshop on Wednesday 6 February here.

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