Rachel became interested in Yoga when she was about 7, although at the time, she didn’t realise that the relaxation and pain relief techniques that her Indian father was teaching her were related to Yoga. During a period of mental, emotional, and physical ill health in her mid-20’s, she became aware of the power of the breath to help her through this difficult time. She developed the ability to connect with her internal, somatic, interoceptive sense on a deep level and was able to regulate her nervous system and access the healing state through self-awareness. The breath has personal spiritual significance to her, and it is central to everything that she does.
Yoga became a vital resource and helped Rachel through her pregnancy. As a single parent it was important to find time to attend a regular class and combat the chronic levels of tiredness and stress. As Yoga became essential in her life, she felt drawn to understand why it was such a powerful intervention in helping her cope with the stresses and strains. She wanted to be able to pass this on to others and offer them the experience of connecting with their bodies and the various states of calm, grounded, centredness and even some time of bliss that nervous system regulation can lead to.
Rachel Teaches Hatha Yoga. In each session, we make a connection with ourselves by being aware of how we feel. We look at the ways in which we experience stress, pain, trauma and discomfort in the body-mind complex. We practice detachment so that we are not triggered by any difficult feelings as they arise but observe objectively. We accept any tension and work with it with compassion and honour ourselves by not pushing into any physical pain. We remind ourselves not to force but to be aware of the messages the body sends us and listen. We practice mindfulness by connecting to our senses and our breath. The physical practice of Yoga then becomes meditative.
The Breath is central to each session. We take time to develop Yogic 3-part breathing to oxygenate to the muscles, strengthen the respiratory system, release tension, activate the relaxation response and create a sense of feeling energized but also calm.We also need to be strong and it is always vital to activate the deep core postural muscles that support us in our movement practice. We practice core breathing that engages the pelvic floor, the TVA (Transversus Abdominal Muscles) and multifidus muscles of the spine. Then the physical practice can begin with some limbering movements that loosen the spine. There is a lot of information about the structure, function and movement of the spine that will help you understand your unique composition and posture.
Each practice is different and the focus is to vary the movement in the body so that the interconnectedness of bone, muscle, fascia is combined in diverse ways. It is important not to be concerned about doing the movements correctly, but more about how you feel as you move. However, safe practice is essential and verbal adjustments are made so that there is no strain on the joints and muscles. Safe alignment cues are given especially for the lower back in standing positions or when the body is working against the force of gravity where strain might arise. It is important to explore the pain-free full end range of movement around the joints and understand the edge of movement and what stops us from going further.
With continued practise, one becomes more aware and deepens the authentic connection with oneself. You are unique. Your practice is personal to you. Yoga can keep you fit and healthy into old age. There is lots of advice about posture that you can practice in everyday movement and experience off of your Yoga mat.
Rachel believes that Yoga is accessible to everyone, no matter what your age, health concerns, abilities or injuries. Although some people might not be suited to a mixed ability session and might need 1-2-1 advice. Each individual has a unique body and she will look for hypermobility in your joints and give adjustment for safe alignment. Muscles are strengthened and stretched to help them to become toned. Each person must approach their practice in a personal way and not expect to look like someone else in the same posture. Safe alignment in the joints and muscles is crucial. Rachel gives clear verbal instruction with explanations regarding safety, alignment and benefits. She gives a few hands-on adjustments if needed. She observes all her students and will demonstrate postures if they are complicated.
Rachel sessions vary so that no class is repeated. She has a staged approach so that all levels can benefit in a mixed ability group. Beginners are given space to accept themselves at the stage they are at and gives lots of advice about their personal limitations and are encouraged to be non-competitive. Advanced students can stay longer in postures, take them to the next level, and play with what they can do. There may be balances and sun salutations.
Every session ends with Savasana and meditation. Again these practices are never the same. The body scan will vary in relaxation, the emphasis may be on sensations, releasing, grounding, senses, internal connection, breath. Most people will experience a state of Bliss at this time. The meditations may be on the heart, breath, gratitude, forgiveness. We often complete the practice by chanting OM to release endorphins from the brain.
The ultimate practice is to feel even just a little bit better at the end of the session. Hopefully, you will come away feeling refreshed, limbered and clearer in your body, mind and heart. The beauty of Yoga is to take from it what you need. It is a never-ending journey, a never-ending source of challenge, and transformation.
Rachel James has been a Self-Employed Hatha Yoga teacher based in Oxford since 2006. She trained for 5 years (2004 Foundation Course 2006-2009 Diploma Val Davies) with the British Wheel of Yoga the governing body for Yoga in the UK. She holds a BWY Teaching Diploma, is fully insured and DBS checked. This training gave her a thorough understanding in Anatomy & Physiology, Philosophy, Pranayama, Asana, Mudra, Bandha, and Mantra.
The course offered a strong emphasis on Precautions and Prohibitions which has enabled Rachel to feel confident in teaching mixed ability classes and offering modifications to people with illness, injury, and disabilities.
Rachel started teaching in community halls, gyms, Oxford University Colleges, 121 private sessions, and corporate businesses. She was the BWY Regional Representative for Oxfordshire for 3 years and set up In Service Training days for teachers to enable them to complete their Continual Professional Development. She set up regular workshops based on the themes of The Vagus Nerve, Longevity, Posture, Balance, The Spine, and Chakras. She organised her first retreat in 2015. During lock down she adapted to Zoom. She is grateful to her loyal following of students that continued to come to sessions during this time.
Since the lockdown, her focus has been building a Home Studio where she has small groups of 1 to 4 people. She has recently installed an ariel trapeze. The Home studio is also set up for Zoom when distance, time and travel are an issue. She has several long-term private clients that she either travels to who come to the studio or who she sees on Zoom. A private session is one of the best ways to receive yoga as it can be tailored specifically to meet the needs of the individual.
She runs annual Retreats in Tuscany. Retreats are one of the greatest gifts you can give to yourself. She holds regular workshops in collaboration with Vishuddha Yoga Centre which is a purpose-built state of state-of-the-art studio with a non-profit ethos.
Rachel continues to Self-Study (Jnana Yoga) and her learning is never ending. She is passionate about Consciousness, Life, Anatomy Physiology Neurology and Trauma. She has recently completed a Medical Neuroscience Course online at Dukes University under Prof. White. In her permanent position teaching Yoga at Khiron Clinics she has trained in the Polyvagal System and has received supervision with Deb Dana, Janina Fisher, and Colleen DeRango. Recently the therapy team has had the privilege of an onsite training workshop with Richard Schwartz (IFS).
She continues to work within a therapeutic community at Khiron House Residential Treatment Centre for Trauma providing Yoga, Mindfulness and Relaxation sessions. She finds that Yoga is a powerful intervention that is able to help those whose minds and bodies have become dissociated, hyper-aroused, fearful, and frozen through traumatic and developmental events. She is working with people coping with and recovering from trauma that may have suffered abuse and that are perhaps trapped in a state of fear. She helps them safely listen and connect with their bodies through movement, regulate their nervous systems through relaxation techniques and learn to be mindful and present.
Attending a Session
Please let me know, in advance, if possible, of any injuries or illness that might affect your practice. Wear loose, comfortable clothing. Yoga is best practiced in bare feet, so that you can grip the ground and not slip. If you have a reason to keep you socks on that is fine. Bring extra layers, socks, shawls, or blankets for Savasana (relaxation).
I provide mats, belts and blocks. When you become a regular student of Yoga you will find that it feels good to have your own equipment.Try not to eat 2 hours before class. Yoga is best done on an empty stomach. But don’t let this put you off coming. Better to eat something light and come along anyway.
Yoga is for everyone. Enjoy being in your body and playing with movement and stillness while breathing and being alive. Developing a meditative atmosphere is important at the beginning of the practice. Arrive early to start on time.
Rachel was born in 1966, is of mixed ancestry, half Indian (dad deceased) and English (mum). She has a son Ethan (1998). They have a naughty Maine Coon cat called Kumo. She has 4 brothers, John-Mark (deceased), Oliver, Giles, and Sebastian. She has a large extended family of aunts, uncles, cousins, and nephews.
The family moved between parishes from Bristol to Portsmouth to North London and then India during her father’s time as a C of E vicar. Rachel completed her early education in London (O’ levels) and India (A’ levels) and returned to the UK to study a BA in Related Arts at WSIHE. After graduating she was unsettled for many years, spending time in Aylesbury, Oxford, London, and Ireland. Ethan was born in Ireland in 1998 and she returned to Oxford to settle in 2000 to be closer to her mum. At the time of writing, she is contently living in a 1950’s little council house with a large garden in Wolvercote, close to the canal and Port Meadow.
She loves travelling and has visited Orkney Islands, Arran Island, The Andaman Islands, Zanzibar, Canary Islands, Cape Verde, The Netherlands, Hungary, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Morocco, Tanzania, Kenya, Sri Lanka, Virginia, California, and travelled extensively in India while living and studying there. She would like to travel to Canada and Alaska to see her extended family. and finish writing her book in Armenia. She loves writing, drawing, watercolour painting, and gardening. She loves animals, birds, insects, and sea life. She loves camping and spending long hours unplugging from modern life and plugging into nature. Being in the fresh air, under the sun and moon in the woods, mountains, lakes, and seas is one of her major therapeutic resources. She is currently writing a Sci-Fi novel.