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Q & A with Maria Widdows Yoga


I began practising mindfulness in 2011 following an NHS CBT course. Over the years, I have used various meditations, and eventually became a mindfulness practitioner, bringing elements into my personal training approach, especially around mindful eating, breathing, and living in the moment.


Whilst practising mindfulness on a regular basis, I had not tried yoga for many years, and had certainly never combined the two. I became increasingly curious about how yoga could provide additional strategies for connecting with my own body. Additionally, as a personal trainer with an interest in the promotion of health and prevention of disease, it’s important to to build a network of local providers.


I became aware of Maria via a recommendation from a friend and was keen to make contact and find out more about the benefits of the amazing yoga classes, right on my doorstep in Boldmere.


I met with Maria in a café in Sutton Coldfield, and we had a good chat about lots of different topics, finding common ground having both previously worked in the education sector.


Maria kindly invited me along to a session, and I chose the beginner’s session (Wednesday 9.30 Newman Community Centre, Boldmere). From the moment I walked into the room, I felt a sense of calm and belonging. The photos accompanying this article are included by permission of Wednesday class members.


The Q&A below is from my initial meeting with Maria, and provides a great insight into her work, passion, and the wonders of practising yoga.


So, why not grab a cuppa, sit back, and enjoy – and please do share this article with your friends & family.

 

How did you first get into yoga? 

 

I joined a gym in 1999 - Living Well, in Brindley Place. 

 

I went along to a Vinyasa yoga class. Everybody was moving with their breath - moving and breathing at the same time. I was a bit mesmerized and I went back every week on a Friday.

 

From then on, I’ve had lots of different teachers and I’ve been to lots of classes. 

 

 


What prompted you to make the transition to teaching yoga?

 

There was a crossroads in my life. I was a teacher and I could have carried on teaching, but I wanted to do something different - and it was a good time to take a leap of faith. I was coming up to fifty. It felt quite empowering. 

 

Initially, I trained as a Hatha and Vinyasa yoga teacher at Barefoot Wellbeing. The training was an incredible experience, so multifaceted, and taught by the best teachers, John Moult and Tania Moutinho among others.

 

Since then, I’ve been lucky enough to continue my training with other amazing teachers, such as Petra Coveney, founder of Menopause Yoga (which brings together elements of yoga, Ayurveda, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, women's circles and TCM - Traditional Chinese Medicine). Through this training, I gained insight into my own menopause journey, as well as being able to help and support other women.


 

What benefits have you gained from yoga? 

 

Whilst our image of yoga may be physical, what it's given to me is a sense of calmness and a sense of acceptance- it’s what evolves from the physical. 

Perhaps the biggest catalyst for teaching yoga has been the ability to share it with others. 

 

I was not particularly sporty at school. I liked the fact in a yoga class, it’s really all about bringing the awareness of the self, rather than worrying about what other people are doing.


 

What are the general benefits of yoga?

 

The physical benefits are widespread,  improving strength, stretching, flexibility, balance. It can be an all-round workout. Yoga calms the nervous system through breath awareness, meditation, and a greater awareness of the self.

 

The physical practice is a moving meditation; there's a sense of openness. as you raise your arms, and a deeper focus on what is happening in the mind which brings you into the present moment. Yoga creates a sense of acceptance, and this acceptance translates into all areas of your life. 

 


What are the benefits of practising yoga during perimenopause and menopause? 

 

Perimenopause is about putting the pieces of the puzzle together. Your hormones are fluctuating from day-to-day, and withing the day, and there can be a wide range of symptoms. The yoga practice is about having the deeper connection with ourselves. Yoga is an excellent way to help manage symptoms in perimenopause and menopause by using movement, breath, intention and meditation. 

 

As the practice of yoga makes us more aware of ourselves, we may notice more things, more readily or sooner. Yoga is a really calming practice which can help to connect the mind and body. 

 

Yin, or restorative practice can be very beneficial when we want to calm anxiety, which often comes in perimenopause / menopause. 

 

The mindful aspect of yoga has some similarities to cognitive behavioural therapy. 

We use the practice as a doorway into meditation to calm the mind. 

 

With so many wide-ranging symptoms during perimenopause and menopause having lots of different tools to support you can really help. For example, a slow-flowing yoga can help with brain fog  because we slow everything down, really synchronising movement, breath, allowing the mind to calm and creating a moving meditation.

 

Yoga can help to release stress and we know that stress can make menopausal symptoms worse. If we can use a yoga practice to observe the breath, the body, the thoughts, and emotions, it can help us to find calmness.

 

During menopause, it's about adapting, the practice to help manage the symptoms and feelings the come with menopause to allow women to feel more in control.  If we have tools in place and other people to support us, we will feel in a better position. 

 

In Chinese culture, menopause is described as a ‘second spring’ whereby we are evolving and changing becoming more like our true selves moving into this new phase with experience and knowledge. At the transition we might say, ‘what am I? Who am?’  My aim is to help women to re-frame this transition into a positive experience and an awakening.

 

We are a culture that celebrates youth, which can be challenging. Yoga allows us to be at one with ourselves and embrace changes in the mind and body and appreciate and accept ourselves.

 

 


What would you say to someone who is thinking of trying yoga?

 

If someone hasn't tried yoga before and would like to come along, I have a beginner's class that runs on Wednesdays at 9.30a.m.

 

Although everyone's welcome to any of my classes, in most classes, there is a range of abilities. The beauty of yoga practice is that it can be adapted for anybody, using props, or adapting the postures.

 

I work on the basis in my classes that we don't feel the same every day. For example, menopause symptoms, can vary – aches and pains can come and go, as we honour where the body is each day.

 

So, I give people different options, without taking away from those who want more from their practice. 

 

My advice would be to just try a class and find out what's right for you – you don’t need to come on day one and do everything - dip in and out and do the bits you want to do, and whatever feels right in your own body.

 

We have a wonderful welcoming community in our yoga classes at the Newman Community Centre in Boldmere – do come and join us.

 

 

@mariawiddowsyoga (Instagram)

07855 369 194

 

MONDAY 6:45pm Yin Yoga Newman Centre, Boldmere

TUESDAY 9:30am Beginners & Beyond Newman Centre, Boldmere

TUESDAY 7:15pm Yoga Flow Newman Centre, Boldmere 

WEDNESDAY 9:30am Yoga for Beginners Newman Centre, Boldmere 

FRIDAY 9:30am Gentle Flow Newman Centre, Boldmere 

LAST SUNDAY OF MONTH 10-11:30am Menopause Monthly Yoga Newman Centre, Boldmere



 

I am so pleased to have connected with Maria, and to have had such a wonderful reintroduction to yoga - right on my doorstep here in Boldmere.


As a personal trainer with an interest in the promotion of health and the prevention of disease, and a CIMSPA member (Chartered Institute for the Management of Sport and Physical Activity), I work with you holistically, supporting you to make realistic and sustainable changes.


You can find more information about the services I offer via the link below. I also run workshops for businesses, details of which can also be found on my website.




Best wishes

Tonia



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