Our Students

We were welcomed with open arms and hearts to the BNHC for an amazing week with Manju Jois. As a beginner, learning his gentle and persuasive adjustments deepened my practice. Manju's generosity in sharing his beautiful chanting and Pranayama breathing was a true gift to me. It was a true honour to have met Manju and to have learnt so much from him and the wonderful Sarah too. He has a fantastic sense of humour!!! I feel so lucky to have stayed in Brighton for a week wrapped in a wonderful, colourful, warm Yogic bubble. It is such a cool place, with warm friendly people, delicious restaurants, an amazingly colourful atmosphere topped with the energy of the sea! It was the perfect week and I am still floating from it all. I can't wait to return! Thank you for your wonderful hospitality. Love Camilla x


Welcome to our new section…Astanga Anonymous!

We are devoting this section to you, our students.

You are our inspiration…!

….and we want to hear all about your personal journey onto the mat and how you manage to maintain your practice within your daily lives.


Astanga Anonymous real student story, Aug 2015

” A few years ago I started a Pilates class, to help with lower back pain. Having explored other options, which always seemed to help in the short term, I knew I needed to build exercise into my life to help heal my back. Pilates helped me to understand my body and brought awareness and strength to my everyday movement.

I continued to follow a class for three years, before feeling that I wanted to move on and seek out something more challenging. My girlfriend recommended trying Kathryn’s Astanga class at BNHC and after the first one, I was sure I would be going regularly.

I think I’ve been going for about a year now and I get a lot from the Astanga practice. It’s meditative in the concentration and focus you have to adopt. I like how fast-flowing it is and how there’s almost no stopping – the ‘ Full Vinyasa’ really links together all of the different postures. I’ve never sweated so much in my like! When I started the class I wasn’t able to backbend at all; I would always get a crunching pain in my lower spine, due to my back injury. After some time, patience and persistence, I can now move in that way – which is both really challenging for my back and ( I believe ) very healing for me.

Kathryn’s a great teacher: She’s ‘no nonsense’ and very supportive, with a good sense of humour. She’s clear about what needs to be done, and helps you to adjust your posture when needed. I would recommend the class to anyone who wants to get fit gradually, overcome both physical and psychological boundaries and feel good from exercise.”

Astanga Anonymous real student story, July 2015

“I had the typical attitude towards yoga when I first encountered it through my partner – “isn’t it all a bit hippy?” – not for me who liked his football and dance music.  Of course I made no distinction between the different styles of yoga, it was for hippies and girls and that was pretty much that.  I attended a couple of classes in London to show willing but still wasn’t convinced it was for me.

I was then somehow persuaded to spend two weeks on an Astanga yoga retreat in Goa.  It was the idea of visiting India that was the attraction but after a week of a routine of an 8am cup of very sugary tea, followed by sweating the most I have ever sweated, then fresh coconut water straight from an actual coconut every morning, I couldn’t deny I felt generally…better.  And the holiday seemed so much longer as a result of those early mornings.

Still I didn’t start practising regularly.  Yoga was for holidays – we also went to Dahab in the Sinai where the yoga almost took a back seat to sand dunes, Bedouins and scuba diving – but the fact my lumbar spine actually touched the floor when lying down, for the first time I could remember, after the third or fourth morning practice (I was carrying a lot of tension back then) told me that there was definitely something in it.

It was when this tension developed into occasional crippling back pain – basically waking up feeling like I’d been punched in the kidneys – that my partner persuaded me to start attending Kathryn’s Astanga Self-Practice courses on Wednesday evenings.

And so it became a kind of date night.  A weird date where I took off most of my clothes and did a lot of sweating and heavy breathing in a room with other people *insert your own joke here*.

For two ten week courses I heaved myself around the mat, cursing my tight hamstrings that every pose seemed to pull at and stealing more than the occasional glance at the primary series poster on the wall as I tried to memorise the sequence. Still smoking at this point, I insisted this didn’t make it harder but sometimes secretly dreaded the breathlessness.  But, I couldn’t deny that after practice I felt somehow released, not just physically but mentally too.

And then, after three years of skirting round the subject, following another (and certainly not the last!) yoga retreat, this time in Thailand, and having been told by the osteopath I was seeing that most of what was being achieved by the exercises he was giving me would also be achieved by yoga, I finally decided I would attend class regularly.

And so for eighteen months I’ve been a regular in Kathryn’s Astanga drop-in on Monday and Anna’s Astanga drop in on Thursdays.  Both are patient, encouraging teachers who make the classes lighthearted but also dynamic.  I challenge any gym-goer to compare their workout!

I’ve seen – and so have they – huge progress in my practice.  The Marichyasanas (now I can bind in A and C) are my favourite.  Unbelievably, the hamstrings that gave me all that pain are now nearly letting me fold forward and grab around my feet.  Next stop, heels down in Downward Dog!

So – I’ve stopped seeing my osteopath and those back pains are a thing of the past.  Of course I’m more flexible but my circulation has also improved – my hands and feet are definitely less cold in winter – and I’m sure it’s made a difference to my mental health too.  You never know, you might start seeing me at BNHC in the mornings..”

Astanga Anonymous real student story, May 2015

How did my adventure start with yoga? Was I lonely? Was I lost? Or maybe, as always, I wanted try something different?

I was never a wild child, I never caused too big troubles as a kid and I was always a loyal teenager to my parents. I always went to school, church and tennis classes (even if I hated them). I was a simple (maybe even boring) teenager, with lots of good friends around me.

I didn’t look for yoga to lose weight, I usually run when I want to lose weight (but I almost never run). I did not have low self-esteem, my dad always says I chose beautiful wife because I wanted have beautiful kids (sometimes my dad will now say “I just have beautiful wife and kids that look like me!”) I never saw a hot-looking yogi doing yoga on the beach who inspired me. I have never had a yogi boyfriend or friend…

My adventure with yoga started when I met my teacher…

Like yesterday I remember my first yoga class… advanced drop-in Friday class! Till now, I have no idea how I survived that. I was tired, sweated, my legs were like bricks, I just wanted that class to end and never came back.  I was thinking “God what am I doing here?” But when led class finished, and when I was lying down in Savasana, Sarah put her hand on my shoulders and said “well done”…. I suddenly felt so proud and happy and more proud. And I wanted practice again.

I signed up for beginner’s course with Sarah. After first (but really my second) class I still did not like Astanga. It was hard and rigorous… Sarah did not allowed us to drink water, and I cannot remember  having breaks between asanas. Yoga was so difficult but teacher was so warm, so friendly… it was almost like a magic around her.

I completed that course and was not coming to studio for a long, long time. But I was thinking about yoga, about that feeling that I was missing something. So I started coming for drop-in Monday classes (for long time I was not coming on Friday advanced ones), never morning self-practice. 6.30am was too big a challenge for me… was too lazy? No. I think I was not ready yet. My lifestyle back then was a “night life” (pubs, clubs, alcohol, food at 4am). That was my life –for some people very shallow, but for me (still) the best time of my life.

Monday and Friday drop-in classes became my routine… Friday classes those which I hated so much become my favourite, they were challenging and I was improving. My teacher started offering self-practice class instead of led (And I did not like that idea AT ALL.) I was annoyed: “Why students raising their hands for self-practice?” “Why is she giving the options?” “It is Friday, it is led class Sarah!!! And after a while I was hoping it was gonna be Friday afternoon self-practice…

One Sunday evening I decided to set my alarm for 5.15am and go to 6.30 Monday Mysore class. I was so scared, shy, not confident on the mat  I was thinking what  am I going for? I am not a yogi, I drink and I smoke… Sarah made me feel so welcome. She was so kind and helpful, she gave me lots of attention and encouraged me in everything.. she made me feel like I belonged there.

And I started coming in the morning, only two, three times a week and I was walking away for 3 or 4 months…and I kept coming back. When I was back in the studio, I thought, “what am I doing here? It’s early, it’s cold, I should be in bed.. yoga does not get any easier”. And I was kept walking  away from yoga for another 2,3 months and again I was back … for about 3 years I was on and off with Astanga. Like an unsure person.

And on top of that I broke my wrist and could not practise for about 6 months and had to start from the beginning. My yoga colleages progressed and Sarah moved me   to beginning postures. But whenever I was on the mat, my teacher was beside me.

When I practised, I kept asking myself “do I really like yoga or am I tring to like it?”  And one day about 3 years ago I stopped questionning myself. I decided that I obviously want to do it. I want to practise, I am happy here at Brighton Natural Health Centre. That moment is very often the best 2 hours of my day.

And now here I am struggling with my back bend, still struggling with Primary Series, not always allowed to practise Second Series. Here I am, leaving my friends in the pub and going home first. Here I am, trying to swap and shuffle working hours so that I can be on my mat with my practice… with my yoga.

That morning practice is hard and yoga is not easy for me. But is rewarding. I am not flexible and my body, even if it’s strong, is very tight and very often “doesn’t let go”. I am not patient person, but thanks to my teacher, I am patient on the mat. She says it’s all coming, and I believe her.

Why yoga? Yoga does not show me a better way of life, yoga shows me how to get through it. Life is like asana… you do not like, but you have to breathe into it and  get through  it.  You have to stay and “be” and when it’s finished it is gonna be the prize… another asana easier- or more likely harder…

Astanga has taught me how to live in peace, oh God I am so far away from that. I am the most confused person in the world — I can get angry in a second and explode like a bomb — but Astanga calms me down. After practising 4 or 5 days in a row, I have no spare energy  to get angry or upset. When I practise I feel proud of myself of what I  have achieved on the mat. Each time after practice, I choose to be happy because I have many reasons to be.

Did Astanga change my life? No and yes. I don’t know. Yoga did not make me a better person but made me a better person then I was yesterday.I did not lose my friends… I just found out who my real friends are. Did yoga help me to find myself? Not sure, but definitely yoga made me realise who I don’t want to be.

Yoga made me believe  more in myself, get a job I always wanted but never thought I can get. I can do all these twisting asanas, which my brother and sisters think are “sick”..  so I can do anything! Yoga made me like myself for what is good  in me… when I am there in morning, I smile when my heart want to smile. At 6.30am on the mat is me –I am real me, stubborn and motivated, calm and full of hope!

Would I get there without my teacher (the woman who shows me the way but do not choose for me, the woman who does not force me). Would I get there without Sarah — who led me, who stops me who push me? I doubt it.

I found my yoga as I found my teacher. I trust her more then I trust myself when I am on the mat.  My colleague asked me what style of yoga is the best and I always say “find yourself a teacher, and yoga will find you”.

I am not the best Astangi in that studio.I still  like to party, I like my drink, I like staying up late, I swear sometimes and I get angry (“world” upsetting me and people annoy me sometimes).  So I do not really know why it is good for you to practise yoga. Perhaps because when you practise you smile more often, you love with passion, you forgive without wonder, you care  instinctively, and sometimes  you do not give a damn.

So set up your alarm and keep doing yoga.

Astanga Anonymous real student story, May 2015

About seven years ago, I remember Sarah telling me after an evening class (at Brighton Natural Health Centre) that I ‘needed to come to morning practice coz “that’s when all the magic happens’. My response…. “I can’t, I need to be at work by 9am, that’s not gonna work for me at all.”

Certainly nothing has changed about my work schedule. My job in children’s social services means I do have to start at 9am — but now I’m at practice pretty much every day.

Knowing my teacher’s special intuitive powers now as I do, I would say that was a well- timed comment ( inviting me at exactly the right moment ) but at the time, I didn’t think much of it. Soon enough, there I was in the morning on my mat!

The practice has taught me so much. It’s really is magic when you get it, and by that I don’t mean the asanas, I mean seeing the mirror it holds up for us all. My job means I work with all different types of families, some are truly inspirational but many more are wrapped up in longstanding dysfunctional dynamics, drama and occasionally in really awful situations. So for me, learning that no matter how much I want things to change, whether this is tightness in my body, or a change at work, accepting it is not going to happen overnight has been very powerful. Sometimes the only thing to do is to keep showing up and chipping away. Changing patterns that are so fixed takes a lot of time!

There are also the situations I want to run from.  For me, it’s here that the practice is at its most amazing, and I see such a strong parallel to my work. Astanga teaches me how to stay present, when I can’t breathe and want to escape. How to find a way to be ‘comfortable with being really uncomfortable’. It’s only by being OK, in that place where it really isn’t  OK, that you can work stuff out so that changes happen.

It’s also great to get out of bed for something I want to do each morning, instead of something I have to do. Morning practice gives me that. I’m in it for the long-haul now!

Astanga Anonymous real student story, March 2015

‘I love going to Astanga Yoga early in the mornings at the BNHC with Sarah Miles.

I feel that I can just be myself and get on with my practice.

I first got into yoga in my first year university and found it was the balance I needed to manage stress as it allows me to truly connect with my breath and inner self.

I have then seen my body transform and become stronger and lighter. This in turn has given me the confidence to do more with myself.

After yoga, at the law school I attend, everyone is very competitive and there is the feeling of needing to “be the best” whereas at yoga, I feel that everyone that goes there is happy, successful and chilled.

Sometimes it is hard to maintain a social life when I know I will have to get up at 6.00 am the next day, nevertheless, when I think about how I will feel at the end of my practice, this motivates me to socialize earlier, and drink less.

I feel really happy to have found Astanga in Brighton at the BNHC; it has really made me love yoga!’

Astanga Anonymous real student story, March 2015 

“I came to Astanga yoga 14 years ago and have enjoyed a practice that takes me half the way through Second Series.

I have had the privilege of learning from many teachers through regular yoga, workshops and travel. For the last eight years this has been with Sarah Miles at the Brighton Natural Health Centre.

The last 18 months of the practice has been a time of self-analysis and reflection and having to adapt my physical practice.All these thoughts and actions have come about as a result of knee surgery and (after consultation with a spinal specialist and MRI scans) the discovery that I have issues with disc in my lower back and neck that give bouts of sciatic pain and constant neck pain.

We hear a lot about injury – it is part of the practice, should it happen, are we causing self-harm, should all of us even be practising yoga? I don’t have the answers. I only know that I get more from the practice other than the physical benefits.

Whilst we hear a lot about injury we don’t hear much about the ageing process and how we should adjust or adapt accordingly. I may be 26 in my head… but my body has other ideas.  For me, yoga is now about where my body is taking me and about having the courage to step onto my mat and not doing a practice that I know will cause me unnecessary discomfort.
I will continue with my practice whatever that may be and would say to everyone, really listen to what your body is saying and do not be afraid to make those adjustments that will lead to a long and happy practice.

Less is more. Namaste.”