Updated on August 21, 2015
Karen McKenzie Whitfield is our newest VeraFlow Master trainer and I’m delighted she’s joined the team! Let’s find out a little more about her.
Karen’s lifelong dream of owning her own dance school, training children for examinations and professional careers in dance was achieved when she opened Attic Studios. She was only 18 when she opened her dancing school and now runs a thriving business teaching dance and fitness to both children and adults.
Dance has always been her passion since she started as a teeny 2 year old (and I can imagine she was a little bit crazy and very energetic!) which then lead her to compete and perform in professional shows.
As a professional dancer and teacher some moments stand out above the rest for Karen:
Masterclasses with Wayne Sleep and Lee Proud (Choreographer of Billy Elliot) to name but a few.
Performing with Professional Ballet Companies as a child.
Choreographer for a local pop band which supported ‘Steps’ on tour.
Adjudicating dance competitions.
Soloist performer at the 2014 Great North Run ‘Millionth Runner’ Opening Ceremony.
Raising money for charities at local schools (E.g. leading Dance-a-Thons).
Although she loves performing, Karen’s main passion is being in the studio, teaching.
Here are some fun facts about her that I bet you don’t know (oh, ok unless you are her beautiful daughter or camera shy hubby!)
Shhh! She is a secret Elvis lover (although it really isn’t a secret!)
Her perfect date involves running a 10 mile obstacle course involving water, fire, electric fences and lots of MUD! (I don’t think she’s looking though guys… sorry)
She often participates in ‘Daughter/Mother’ challenges and never wins. (see photographic evidence…)
There’s not much Karen doesn’t like but she hates wearing socks. (Just as well because we like bare feet in VeraFlow!)
So what does this mud-loving, sock-hating, dancer think about VeraFlow? In her own words:
Why? Because it involves two of my favourite things, dancing and stretching!
I like to offer my clients a fitness opportunity which is refreshing and different to anything they may have experienced previously.
As with many other fitness programmes, it allows participants the chance to stretch, improve balance and posture, whilst developing coordination and concentration.
However, after my 60 minute VeraFlow class I gain great satisfaction in seeing that I have provided my clients quality time for themselves, away from the stresses and strains of everyday life.”
Welcome Karen to the VeraFlow Master trainer team by leaving her a comment below and find her training dates and locations here.
Updated on August 9, 2015
Women’s Health Magazine has a great article this month about yoga and overdoing it. It talks about how it’s turned into a competitive and stressful activity rather than the mindful and stress-releasing one it is intended to be.
Have you noticed this about your workouts or perhaps other activities you need to complete? You put so much pressure on yourself to get to class, or do that pose or move that everyone else seems to be able to do, that your body is starting to feel achy and you are stressed out after adding yet more to your ‘must get done’ list.
You know that mindfulness is about being fully present in what you’re doing but what does that actually mean in a practise?
Being mindful is fully experiencing what you are doing.
If you have a chocolate bar near you go grab it!
Side note: if you don’t like chocolate or can’t eat chocolate you can do the same thing with something else, like a banana or ice cream cone for example.
Now hold it in your hand and notice the wrapper design, notice how the bar feels, what size and weight it is. Become aware of your feelings.
***AVOID being judgemental with yourself and starting an inner battle about whether or not you should really eat the chocolate!***
Just notice your feelings and accept them. It might help to say ‘I am feeling … about this chocolate bar.’ Then move on.
Slowly unwrap the chocolate bar – take your time even if it’s hot and the chocolate is melting! – notice all the sensations – what you see, feel, smell … Remember, no judgement. Simply immerse yourself in the experience.
Now break off a piece or take a bite and feel the chocolate melt into a smooth paste in your mouth. Take your time and really notice the flavour, the consistency, how you feel, if your body changes in the way it feels.
If thoughts come into your head simply be aware of them. There is no need to give every thought your full attention. If a thought is important it will come back later. Trust your mind. For now you are enjoying (or maybe not …) a delicious chocolate bar!
Continue to make your way slowly through the bar fully experiencing it and come back to reading this when you’re done. Take as much time as you like!
How did it feel to give your full attention to that one simple thing?
If you’re anything like me there are many times when you are on autopilot (see being mindful vs being mindless) and aren’t giving your full and complete attention to what you’re doing – from teaching or participating in a VeraFlow class, to cooking the dinner, to talking with your partner or a friend.
You know that is happening when other thoughts enter your mind and you allow them to take over pulling you away from the present to the past or to the future.
Applying this to participating in class, being mindful means being fully aware of your body and the sensations as you move through the routines, moves or poses.
You know your own body. You can feel what it needs. If you feel pain STOP. It’s that simple. If you feel like you cannot go any further. Don’t do it. If your muscles begin to shake, ease out of the stretch.
Just because someone else has their leg wrapped around their head does not mean that you should be able to do it too. Everyone’s body is different and only you can feel the sensations and warning signs in your own body. You are responsible for it and you need to listen with your senses.
I think the phrase ‘no pain, no gain’ should be thrown out the window!
I’ll give you an example from my own life. We do have to go back in time a bit though…!
I was sent to ballet classes at 3 years old. I loved it and continued to dance all through my life. I worked hard and progressed through the ballet grades always getting honours and distinction for my exams. It came to a point in one of the major exams that I did not. I got a pass with a comment on my result slip that I will never forget:
‘Naomi did very well within the limitations of her physique’
Was I gutted? Yes! But it’s hard to get too upset with that because actually I probably couldn’t have done better given how my body it built – the angles of my joints for example prevent me from being able to stand with my feet completely turned out to 180º. If I was to have pushed and forced my feet to be turned out at right-angles to my body, I would have seriously damaged my knees and actually I wouldn’t have been able to perform the movements well in any case.
I just had to accept that I do not have the body to become a professional ballet dancer and that is ok. It did however open the door to contemporary and modern dance!
Next time you are in a VeraFlow class I challenge you to become more and more focused on the movements you are doing.
The reason we repeat the routines is to give you the opportunity to improve each time – to become more and more aware of your body, it’s alignment, where you are feeling the stretch, to adjust and to breathe.
Remember you should never feel pain when stretching. Only tension and a mild discomfort which might make you feel like changing your position to get rid of it… but you don’t want to do that!
Updated on July 8, 2015
Mindfulness is about training your mind. It’s about NOT being mindless!
When you are mindless you do things without actually thinking about them: they are automatic or repetitive actions, behaviours and reactions.
Being mindful is training your mind with concentration so that it will stay where you want it to stay.
How would it feel like to be able to enjoy each moment you are living instead of worrying about the past – which you cannot change – or worrying about the future?!
Wouldn’t that be great?!
Is your mind fighting with itself right now…?
You think, yes this is a good idea…in theory. But every thing I do has consequences. So it would be silly to only be concerned with this exact moment!
I know exactly what you mean, and no, being mindful doesn’t mean that you are enjoying the moment without regard for the consequences of what you’re doing or saying!
Of course you will be aware of those things.
But wouldn’t it be amazing to enjoy right now all of the time!!
Mindfulness meditation and visualisation exercises can help you to calm your mind and to find peace. They can help you to get a clearer understanding of how things really are – to get perspective.
The two most important elements are awareness and acceptance.
A lot of times you get stressed because you cannot see things how they really are and instead you wish they were exactly how you want them to be.
So you need to learn to be aware of exactly what is happening and then to accept that fact.
Here’s an example from my own life right now:
I’ve applied for a visa to travel to Australia and it’s been granted which is great news because it means VeraFlow is coming to Australia and I get to meet lots of new people and visit somewhere I have never been before!
But my partner does not have a UK passport and therefore the application for him is a bit more complicated.
We’ve submitted the application and could either spend the next days or weeks worrying about whether it will get granted or not and become stressed out thinking about it.
Or we could put our minds at ease knowing that we’ve made the best application we can and that we will find a way to get any supporting documents they might request.
If we are able to do this then we can enjoy all the different and potentially wonderful moments we will have during the time it’s being processed instead of constantly being worried and stressed over something we have no power to change.
And, it might just get granted in the next few days with no problems at all!
So what would be the point to worry and get stressed out!?
Here’s another scenario:
Let’s say you have an important person in your life who did something that hurt you – perhaps a particular situation just jumped to your mind!
You are aware of what happened and you are aware of the pain you are suffering. But your mind is in turmoil, constantly thinking “why?” or “how could they have done that?” or “what if they do it again?”…
These thoughts are stopping you from experiencing your life right now in a good way.
You are basically hijacking your own happiness.
We all make mistakes and we all suffer because of situations or events that are out of our control. If we are aware of them and can accept that it has happened and that we cannot re-live the past and change it, and we cannot know what is going to happen in the future, then we will be able to live a much more relaxed and happy present.
Does that make sense?
It takes time to train your mind. To train it effectively it needs to become a habit – a new pattern of behaviour and way of thinking.
In VeraFlow we include mindfulness.
To begin with you will notice only at the end of the class in the guided meditation or visualisation section. But as you become more skilled at it you will also learn to bring mindfulness into the whole class, becoming more aware of your body and your muscles, feeling your body and aligning your body more effectively to stretch in the way your body needs it.
You’ll be able to focus on yourself and what you’re doing rather than having your mind jumping around all over the place thinking about all kinds of things that have nothing to do with what you’re doing in that very moment.
Have you tried being mindful? What has been the impact on your life?
Posted on June 9, 2015
I am so excited to have Vanessa Morris as one of our VeraFlow Masters! She is a fantastic person to represent us and is an amazing trainer.
Let’s find out a little more about her.
Vanessa was a gymnast as a child in the Scottish squad and took up dance at age 10 to enhance her floor routines. But she hated it!
She once drank half jar of pickle juice to get out of going to Ballet class! It didn’t work thought as she ended up going to class and ended up loving pickle vinegar (and still does to this day!)
Aged 15 Vanessa won a ballet scholarship in association with Scottish ballet, took classes with English National, Bolshoi Royal & Scottish Ballet. She then went on to won a teaching scholarship with British Ballet org but declined it and went to Doreen Bird College of performing arts.
Since then Vanessa has taught Body Pump, Body Jam, Aqua and Fitness Pilates. She was a Zumba Education specialist for 5 years training new instructors in Zumba Basic 1, Zumba Step and Zumba Toning.
She’s now made the move to more mind-focussed classes and fills her days teaching yoga and Body Balance in addition to being a Guide for R.E.D. Warrior and a VeraFlow Master. As if she didn’t have enough on her plate Vanessa is also a trainer & assessor for Fitness Training Scotland in ETM.
I love VeraFlow as it allows me to find balance between dance and stretch, enjoy the flow, the moment of forgetting everyday thoughts and issues, loosing myself in the music & the movements.
Take a VeraFlow Instructor Training or a VeraFlow Basics Workshop with Vanessa and you’ll be laughing all day as well as gaining so much knowledge from an industry great!
Updated on June 4, 2015
A common question people ask it what’s included in the subscription payment.
With your subscription you are paying for license to use the VeraFlow name, logo, concept and choreography in your classes (according to the license agreement)
In addition you will get these benefits included at no extra charge:
- Marketing of your classes on VeraFlow.com so people can find you
- Choreography videos
- Playlist on Spotify (we do not provide the music via download or on CD)
- £10 bonus credit for each person you refer who registers for a training course (they just need to enter your email address at registration in the ‘referred by’ box). This credit will be used against your license subscription so in effect you could get your license for free! This is valid for registrations to both VeraFlow Basic workshops and VeraFlow Instructor training courses
- Discounted use of FABIOapp.com (50% discount on annual subscriptions, saving you from £48.50 to £1,348.50!)
- Free annual registration on CoverMyClass.today worth £17 (plus the opportunity to receive £10 cash for every successful referral)
- 1/3 off professional teacher/instructor membership with EMD
- 5% off at Sound Dynamics
- Ongoing support through educational videos
- Instructor Forum
- Access to choreography workshops
- Possibility to become a VeraFlow Pro and eventually apply to become a VeraFlow Master
You will need to activate your license subscription after passing your VeraFlow instructor training.
In an ideal world what 1 benefit would you like to see added to the subscription package?
Updated on May 28, 2015
Lots of people get confused about what a masterclass is compared with a regular weekly class.
The difference is this:
A masterclass is taught by a master of that discipline and these classes are generally one-off special events.
It doesn’t necessarily mean that it will be better than a regular class, but it does mean that the instructor teaching it will have a lot of knowledge, experience and charisma.
Masterclasses in some fitness formats can be taught by anyone and everyone but this de-values what they are and what they have to offer to people.
In a masterclass whether you’re a class participant or an instructor you should feel totally engaged and have your attention captured by the master trainer. There is always something new to learn and experience whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned pro.
Don’t miss out on attending masterclasses in any disciplines that you are passionate about so that you can learn as much as possible to improve your own skills or simple to benefit from a fantastic class just for your own personal benefit!
So, who arranges masterclasses and what’s the deal financially?
They can be arranged by the master trainer or by an instructor or organisation inviting them to come and teach.
Payment would be arranged with the master trainer. For VeraFlow masterclasses we avoid putting a heavy burden on the host by requesting a large payment.
We realise that VeraFlow is a new discipline and for instructors to get their participants involved and interested in the program, hosting a masterclass is a fantastic marketing opportunity for new instructors.
So, we work like this: if you can provide us a great venue we will front the studio hire costs, give you a free place or two in return for hosting and publicising the event with locals and simply charge people a reasonable class fee. Nothing ridiculous. Nothing over the top and unaffordable.
If you would like to host a masterclass in your area with either myself (Naomi) or Vanessa please get in touch with us by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org.
We would be delighted to come to you and share this experience so that you and your participants can understand and enjoy the program.
Hope to see you soon!
Updated on May 23, 2015
Everyone’s heads are full of ‘Zumba’. It’s our benchmark in the industry now. Whether you like it or not you’re thinking, “is this going to be as big as Zumba? Is that going to get me as many people as Zumba? Is VeraFlow going to be out for my money? Are they going to treat me like Zumba does?…” I’m sure you have lots of other questions buzzing around your head too!
Every little thing that Zumba does – from the ZIN membership benefits, to the marketing, to their customer service is the plumb line to which people measure other programs. Read More
Updated on May 26, 2015
Friday 24th April saw the first ever VeraFlow Instructor training course in Bolton, UK.
A group of 8 instructors who knew little or nothing about VeraFlow put great trust in me when they registered to become VeraFlow instructors. I was so excited to bring them this program which has developed out of my own journey. Read More