Football, yoga

Yoga goals and football

Football, yoga

West Bromich midfielder, Gareth Barry, passes Ryan Giggs’ appearance record on Monday, clocking up his 633rd premier league appearance.

What Barry also has in common with Giggs is yoga; the practice which Giggs has frequently credited with making a great contribution to his career’s longevity.

In an interview with the Guardian, Barry hits the nail on the head with his explanation of the barriers to taking up yoga. He tells Nick Ames of The Guardian newspaper:

“As a player who’s been around a while you’ve got an old school mentality,” he says. “When somebody mentioned yoga for the first time I just looked at it and thought: ‘This isn’t for me, it’s for an older woman down at the health club trying to get supple.’ But I thought: ‘No, I can see the benefits there, I’ve got to embrace it.’ It can be hard work sometimes but you come away feeling much better. I’ve gone with things like that rather than saying I’ve never done it or needed to do it.” It has helped Barry since he left Villa eight years ago and as many as “six, seven or eight” of his current team-mates join in.

Interesting, isn’t it, how we all have our preconceptions of what ‘yoga is’ and who does it. I know plenty of women who think it’s for young women only. Or thin women. Or flexible people only. And men who think yoga is only for women and they aren’t welcome in a class. Full marks to Barry for opening his mind to challenging the preconception and finding out for himself that there were benefits to be had. Although it’s maybe disappointing that less than half his colleagues join him today moving forward is moving forward, I suppose.

More than 20 per cent of football injuries involve ankle ligament sprains and hamstring strains. Clearly yoga can have a great role to play in keeping joints and muscles strong, but also stable in their flexibility; rigidity and tightness can only increase injury risk.

Further reading

Guardian article by Nick Ames

Football and common injuries

Photo by David Clarke



Yoga retreat at La Pierre Verte

Rediscovering your yoga on retreat

Gifting yourself a yoga retreat has many pluses; some total immersion without distraction, the opportunity to explore another teacher’s yoga in detail and if you are canny with it, some much-needed R&R by a pool, with some sun.

And, if you are really going for it, those gifts will present in the forms of challenges to your equilibrium, giving you deeper insight into who you are. For as we know, asana is just one small part of yoga’s world and exploring our inner world is an infinitely valuable past-time.

I’ve only been on two yoga retreats now, so I don’t have a huge amount of experience to draw from, but I learned a lot about myself from both. Sometimes, you revisit a lesson you learned ages ago, but sometimes there are those ‘a-ha’ moments which really strike home.

But first, let me tell you a little about the yoga at La Pierre Verte in the South of France, close to the market town of Uzes. Led by Tara Walch, our five day retreat was themed around the elements – earth, wind, fire and water, with two sessions dedicated to balancing those elements, learning how they exist within us and how we can learn from their different qualities.There were also sessions on essential oils, some crafting around creating mandalas with wool and walks in around the local sights of interest.


La Pierre Verte

Run by Ella and Ed, La Pierre Verte is a delightful retreat from the 21st century where guests can camp or stay in yurts and eat with this family who hail from London, but have made this little paradise their home and business. My friend, Rachel and I stayed in the Mongolian yurt. Behold!


Cosy, beautifully painted and complete with an open air skylight, this roomy yurt turns out to be a pleasure to sleep in. It’s only challenges are shutting our skylight when it rains, which involves throwing a stick over the tent and pulling it down to close over the roof flap to which it is attached (not so easy in the dark). Did I feel safe and secure in our middle of nowhere yurt? Absolutely. Will I ever be converted to the wonders of late night, torchlit trips out to the compost loo? Probably not. I fear my camping days have passed me and I’ve become something of an indoor plumbing princess over the years. And a word to the wise; never leave the top off anything in your yurt. It will be alive with all manner of insect life within hours.

The Food

La Pierre food is fabulous. Fresher than fresh, colourful and plentiful, our meals were delicious.

And here is where I learned one uncomfortable lesson. When it comes to food I need grounding and for me balance involves little in the way of pulses and less dairy. Trying to feel ‘solid’ I tried eating more, which did not help matters. But we are here to learn on yoga retreats and learning this was a good thing, how frequently do we get the space to consider our constitution and what suits us? You live and learn.

The company

Five days makes firm friends!

La Pierre Yoga Retreat

The biggest challenges and surprises

Four hours of yoga a day was an absolute pleasure and in no way the physical or mental challenge I thought it might be. Tara has an Iyengar foundation, so props abound, and Donna Farhi’s teachings are a strong influence. Kindness to the self rules the day.

No, the biggest challenges were surprises to me, the feelings we experience when we let go of the familiar; coffee, wifi and for one day, solid food. Juice fasting for 24 hours was a curious experience and I know the theory of resting the digestive system fasting is meant to promote, but I can’t say I felt any benefits.

Oh, and the mosquitos! Fierce little terrors. I may have spent some time swimming around the pool rescuing insects from the surface, but mosquitos… difficult to see their merits really. Another ahimsa challenge!

The long-term benefits

Am I completely relaxed, calm and zen-like 24-7. Not quite, but there is a noticeable shift in my reaction to challenges. It is possible my partner will snap if he hears me say ‘it is what it is’ one more time, but I have become far less emotionally engaged when conflicts come along. Interesting… I also feel physically very well and my interest in essential oils is awakened again.

Useful Links

La Pierre Verte:

Tara Walch:




Home from home, Airb&bing it

Steeped in roman history, with architectural wonders galore, this was the perfect-sized city for two days’ exploring.

In this instalment of our adventures in France (I’ll get to the yoga retreat next, I promise) Rachel and I arrived in Nimes, some 40 minutes by train from Avignon.

Our Airb&b two-day home, owned by the delightful Emilia, was really central. As you’ll see from the pictures below, it is incredibly chic and tastefully decorated. Emilia made the most of her wonderful space with a sofa bed included so her one-bedroom apartment could sleep several people. It felt secure and authentic. I’m an Air&b newbie, so I was pleasantly surprised to find our new home was like a, well, home.


Above and below: Emilia’s beautifully decorated apartment with gated courtyards


That’s my bag and denim jacket slung on the floor, but you still get a flavour of how chic this flat is, although perhaps not quite how profoundly envious I am of our hostess’s decor talent.

I would say the advantages of Airb&bing it are you get a real flavour of life in your city of choice, it’s culturally more interesting than a hotel and you can buy local produce to create meals to your taste. Novotels are the same wherever you are, aren’t they, but they do come with swimming pools and aircon.

Exploring Nimes – Arenes




In some ways Nimes reminds me of Palma, Majorca, with its winding streets and twisting alleys; but with its own stunning ancient monuments, like Arenes, the ancient roman amphitheatre. A Unesco heritage site which is claimed to be the best preserved amphitheatre in the world, here we learned all about gladiators, which included women as well as men, and how gladiator schools trained their students to compete in the bloody shows. There were different weapons and armour combinations and, in its beginnings, death was rare if only because gladiators were expensive to replace. Of course it all got very unpleasant as the empire began to crumble and the number of animals dying in the arena was massive. The arena is still used for events today, including bullfighting. The audio tour is great fun though and the tour of the gladiators’ quarters area particularly dark and grimly atmospheric (kids will love it!)

Jardins de la Fontaine

Oh so pretty with its Temple of Diana, which may not be dedicated to Diana and may be a library, not a temple. There is also the Tour Magne, a tower which gives spectacular views over Nimes, once you’ve hauled your way up there. Built on the site of a pre-roman watch tower, this is view is well worth the climb.

Above: Temple of Diana… check out the ancient graffiti on the left hand column, third pic

Below: Tower with stunning panoramic views (apols for slight drunken-sailor angle there, I blame the heat).

We also watched Nimes, the movie (not called that, but that’s what it is) in the Maison Carre, which is the story of the founding of Nimes and thoroughly engaging. Go fight for the romans for 27 years and you get a city and  a chest of gold (I am summarising furiously here, but you get the gist). There are no photos of this stunning building for reasons which will be explained in a later episode called Lessons Learned… (cue building of suspense).

Forwards to retreat

You learn a lot about yourself, travelling. How you deal with unforeseen difficulties. How you cope with the tiredness hours of sitting still somehow wraps about you. How you pass the hours of waiting in queues. How valiantly you can battle on with the language, simultaneously discovering that your vocabulary has shrunk to the size of a pea… (pois! Don’t be impressed, I had to look that up) But there is nothing like adventure, is there, and all those challenges are all part of the giddy delight of the new.

My journey to a yoga retreat trip with my friend, Rachel, began with meeting up at Euston station in London and then setting off to St Pancras to catch the Eurostar to Lille where we changed trains for an overnight stay in Avignon.


Total day’s travelling time from my doorstep in Manchester, England to Avignon, France: 14.5 hours. That’s a long day but one mostly spent gazing out of windows, watching the landscape unfurl as we journeyed south. We had plenty more travel adventures along the way during our 10 days away as we made our way to Nimes and then on to Uzes and then on to La Pierre Verte and back again. Here are a few useful lessons I learned from the journeys we took during our 10 days away:

  1. Take food with you to eat while travelling. You’ll at least be able to consume something containing vitamins that won’t send you giddy with the sugar-in-disguise effects white bread can induce. Meals can get missed and crock monsieur was a (frankly, expensive) port in a storm on the way to Avignon which did nothing to help matters when faced with number 2.
  2. Some towns have more than one train station. There is little fun to be had lugging cases about at 10.30pm along deserted streets, trying to work out why the overnight hotel isn’t where it should be. It isn’t where it should be because it’s opposite another train station several miles away. One expensive taxi journey later…
  3. Just because people are local doesn’t mean they know anything about the local public transport.  Lovely though the French are and although they do try to be helpful, be prepared for many a red herring.
  4. Bus timetables are not always accurate but buses do run on time. Confused? We were. On a Saturday in the town of Uzes the bus stop and route changes to avoid the esplanade and its morning local market. But that’s not on the timetable. We saw the bus sail past on a road 50 feet away, but we didn’t find the right stop to catch the next one in nearly two hours of wandering about in the heat of the day asking anyone we bumped into. Although we spoke to lots of people who tried to help. See 3.
  5. Googlemaps is not always your friend. In the thick of high buildings your signal can get lost and you’ll be gaily lugging those cases in the wrong direction. Check frequently; that’s my advice.
  6. It’s always further than you think. And, of course, retracing your steps always seems to take twice as long than wandering off in the wrong direction. See 5 and 3.
  7. ‘Direct’ should not be taken literally. I’m a very literal person, which is probably why I find metaphor magical, but I’ve discovered I don’t like metaphor’s nuances applied to train travel. It turns out the ‘direct’ Eurostar from Avignon to London involves a stop at Lille where everyone gets off the train with all their possessions, shows their passports to the UK and French border chaps and then pushes their luggage through the scanners before getting back on the train. All 550 of everyone. It takes an hour and for those with pushchairs or mobility issues there will be much queuing for the lifts. Of course, the Eurostar staff do this every day and know what they are doing, and are reassuringly jolly and calm, but for the uninitiated its all a bit daunting.

Of course any frustration melts away once the obstacle is overcome and the spirit is buoyed by successfully negotiating what earlier felt like a mountain. Really, it’s just the fear of the unknown, isn’t it?

And as Marie Curie said: ‘Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood.’ 

Except, maybe, bus timetables on Saturdays in Uzes.

Photo by Tomasz Frankowski on Unsplash