Meet SOMA Member: Duncan Coombe, PhD.

At 45, Duncan Coombe is a teacher, researcher, author and advisor. He also knows to look at the big picture. After joining SOMA House 6 months ago, Duncan feels stronger and faster than any other time in his life, and has the results and data to prove it. We met him for a chat after his Saturday morning routine of SCC Cycling and Hot Detox 26.

What’s your weekly workout routine?  I try and get in about 5 workouts a week. Saturday is a big one for me, with 2 back to back classes. The rest of the week is a combo of cycling, hot yoga and TRX. I travel a lot so it’s less “routine” and more about being flexible with my training. Saturday mornings though are my ritual!

Describe your training philosophy.  I try to remember that it’s about my long term health and wellness more than short term goals. Training is for life, not for my ego.

What would you say is your top secret for committed training?  Have I ever regretted training? Not once. Have I ever been less than enthusiastic before a session? Many times! The secret…JFDI!

It’s a place where good people gather and train hard.

Dr. Duncan Coombe

What is the best part of your SOMA experience?  I love the seriousness of the place. The concept, the founders, the coaches, the other participants. Not serious as in, “I’m not fun” way, but in a “we are here to work and to take that seriously” way. Also, we are developing a real community and it’s great to see familiar faces.

What is the hardest part of your SOMA experience?  The intensity – there is no such thing as a chill workout.

Biggest fitness challenge so far.  I just wish I could lock in my fitness for a few weeks…with all my travelling, I often feel like I’m starting over again, which can be frustrating. Also, with travel, staying disciplined with sleep and nutrition is a challenge.

Your biggest achievement so far.  I’ts a big picture thing…I’m super happy that at 45 I feel stronger and faster than any time in my life, and have the results and data to prove it.

Which class challenges you the most?  Double classes are the killer!

SOMA House, in your own words.  SOMA House is for the committed amateur athlete who is looking for a holistic approach to health and wellness, backed up by science and professionalism. It’s a place where good people gather and train hard.

St Paddy's Day Smoothie - Filling like Guiness only it's good for you.

It’s St. Paddy’s Day 🍀

Trade in the post-workout beer for our Muscle Power Superfoods Shake. The super strong protein shake to recover from a hard workout (or late night!).

There’s nothing better after a hard workout then a creamy smoothie full of nutrients and muscle-building power.

Our nutritionists designed our Muscle Power shake to give you that recovery edge to stay strong. Students have rated it as the best protein shake in London.

It includes two high quality vegan proteins, three energising superfoods and peanut butter. And unlike most other places, we use high quality unprocessed raw peanut butter.

It has no added sweetners or sugars so just raw goodness!

What classes is this smoothie best for?

Great after double classes, cycling or TRX. Your SOMA Coaches Theo, Asaf, Rory and Marianna regularly have this for lunch or post-class.

Can I use it as a meal replacer?

Yes, as it has essential nutrients for days when you are on the go or prefer to have a lighter meal that is easy to digest.

New to Hot Yoga? Everything you need to know before your first Hot Yoga class.

Jennifer Hersch tells you everything you need to know before your first Hot Yoga class.

Over the years, I learned some useful tips both as a teacher and student. I’ve been in the hottest studios, I’ve practiced with few people up to 500 people in class, experienced every kind of heat, worked through injuries and different practices in the heat.

Let’s face it. Your first hot yoga class can feel intimidating. Even every hot yoga teacher remembers his or her first experience. I remember mine in a small Bikram studio in SoHo, New York City. I climbed the winding stairs to find a small, carpeted room with no windows and intense heat. My only memory of the whole class is seeing black in camel. And then that amazing feeling after class where I couldn’t wait to try it again.

Twenty years later, and I’m still at it.

However, I know the first class can feel intimidating and we all worry about what others will think. The beauty of hot yoga is that no one cares. It’s like giving birth. Everyone is just focused on getting through the class that they don’t care what they look like or those around them.

Below I answered the typical questions we get from new students. Take a read, relax and don’t worry. It will all be fine.

How do I know which class to take?

Hot Detox 26 (Bikram): This is recommended for students with little yoga experience who prefer moving slowly through poses without a lot of continual movement. It’s for beginner to advanced students (I’ve done it for 20 years), but since it is a more static practice it makes it easier for newbies to catch on to postures while getting used to the heat.

It’s also great for students with upper body or wrist injuries since we don’t do postures on the arms. Likewise, the series can help students with knee injuries.

Done by many athletes for cross-training.

Elementals Earth: Great first hot flow to try if new to Elementals or flow in general. It’s a  slow hot flow class designed for students who need activation of muscles, release of neck tension and core strength. Of our flows, it is the best to start with if you are new to hot flow as it moves slower than Fire or Water. Set sequence changes every term. All levels.

Elementals Water: This is for students who love to flow as we work in circular movements to heal the body through more spiral moves. We have many signature yoga moves we do in this series which you can pick-up over time. A definite try for hot flow lovers. If you are new to hot yoga, start with Earth and Hot Detox then give this a go.

Elementals Fire: An intense hot flow that incorporates Pilates core strengthening. It moves quicker so may feel slightly tricky if new to hot yoga. We also work with the barre as a yoga prop to go deeper into backbends and flexibility training. All levels, but newbies may want to do the other classes first then move on to this one. Great for those who need core strength and want to work on inversions and backhanding.

Elementals Space (Yin)This class is more about meditation and finding relaxation as we work deep into more yin-like poses. The room is warm, but not hot and you use yoga bolsters on the floor the whole time. It’s for days when you just want to tune-out and relax.

How do I prepare for class and what should I bring?

Hydrate. Make sure you drink enough water throughout the day including electrolytes. This means you come to class prepared to sweat.

Avoid eating 2-3 hours before class. Make sure you eat earlier in the day, but you don’t want a full stomach for class as this can make you feel sick during the class. Clean foods and liquids.

Electrolyte tablets in water. Newbies can put electrolyte tablets in their water for class as this helps with hydration. If you find you get headaches or dizzy in class, often it’s because your electrolytes are low due to sweat. This is often true with strong guys who sweat a lot. Nuun tablets are good as they are all natural.

Water. Bring large chilled water bottle/s. You will want enough to drink in class and possible splash over your face during class.

What should I wear?

You will sweat like never before, so think swimsuit material. Men typical wear shorts or bathing suit. Newbies often come with a shirt but then realise you want to take it off during class. If you really want a top then make sure it’s breathable.

Women often wear lightweight leggings or shorts, a sports bra or light tank.

Which class is best for shoulder, wrist, arm injuries?

Hot Detox 26 is the best for anyone who cannot bear weight on their arms or wrists given we don’t do typical yoga poses like downward dog, chattarunga, vinyasas or arm balances.

Which class is best for knee injuries?

The Hot Detox is probably the best for most knee injuries. The series was originally put together by a yoga guru to heal his students knees. Always tell your teacher if you have issues and they can give you modifications.

You can take the Elementals Flow classes too, but may need to pad your mat for knee lunges and tell your teacher for other modification.

Which class is best for complete beginners?

It depends on whether you like to flow or prefer a more static practice where we move slowly from one pose to another. Hot Detox 26 is usually the best for complete beginners as we hold each posture for a period of time and then slowly transition into the next one. You don’t need to worry about a fast moving class where you have to catch continual movement.

Elementals Earth is also good for beginners as it’s a slow hot flow. We do flow between movements but it’s not a faster tempo like Elementals Water or Fire.

If you are looking for more of a yin-type class that is more meditation and relaxation based, try Elementals Space.

The idea is to begin with a practice like Hot Detox and then slowly move into the Elementals Flow classes given they are designed to complement each other.

How many classes should I take a week?

This depends on your goals. The more classes you do in the beginning, the quicker your body gets used to the heat and you see faster progress. This means at least 3x a week.

If you are doing other classes at SOMA and integrating hot yoga intro your training plan, aim for 2-3 classes a week.

And to really dedicate yourself to what transformation hot yoga can give you physically and mentally, try 4-6x a week.

I get headaches after class. What is this from?

It usually means you have not hydrated well enough. This means water and replaced electrolytes. Make sure to drink during the day before class and after class. Newbies often need water during class too.

Sometimes it also comes from your initial detoxification. When the body starts to detox through intense sweat and yoga poses meant to purify the systems of the body, you can get headaches in the first month or so.

Meet Tommy - In 5 weeks reached his first 2018 goal

Meet SOMA member, Tommy Daskus

I know Tommy best by sweating next to him in Dr. Theo’s always epic Monday Hot Detox, 6pm.  After Christmas, he decided to become a SOMA House member and finally put into action what he’d talked about for so long: lose some weight but more importantly increase his feeling of wellbeing.

He joined and jumped right in to all classes before finding his best integrated training plan. We measured his total body composition 5 weeks ago and again last Friday.

The results? Dropped 2.7% body fat (6.9% down from 9.6%) and increased muscle composition by  2.4kg.

The numbers are great, but we care more about his overall mindbody wellbeing. So we spoke with him more to hear about his experience.

What was your personal goal this last month?

My main goal was to lose some of my body fat, and increase my feeling of wellbeing. After 8 weeks of consistency, I have had good results from 9.6 body fat it dropped to 6.9. My second goal I have achieved was to move from the back row to practice in the front, which I am enjoying it so much. The next one is The 30 day Challenge.

What is your typical weekly workout?

During my first month at SOMA house, I have tried out everything from the class menu, for to be able to understand what works best for me, and to pick the classes I love the most, so I can plan my weekly workouts. Monday is my favourite work out day starting with BARRE Ballet Blast and straight after jumping to the hot room for YOGA Hot Detox 26. Tuesday – YOGA Elementals FIRE + PILATES and straight after YOGA Elementals SOUL. Wednesday would choose between TRX, YOGA or CYCLE (in depends on my body and mind), Thursday – YOGA Elementals EARTH, Friday – my favourite YOGA Elementals WATER with Jennifer, Saturday  – YOGA Hot Detox 26, Sunday – rest day. This is the best workout for me and I could see big changes after one month sticking to my plan.

Did you change diet as well or just different work out?

Whenever anyone asks me about the diet, it makes me laugh. I always eat what I want to eat, never count the calories. I am a big fan of Chinese take away, potatoes, biscuits and ice cream. It is genes, as I was born in a sports family: my father is ex professional footballer and mum – ex gymnast.  The combination of my weekly work out is the answer for the results I reached.

How do you balance with work?

Working in retail can be difficult, but I made a commitment to get up early and do the early shifts, so I can make it to the classes. Practicing yoga 5 times a week helped to calm me down in stressful situations with difficult clients and I noticed that I am much calmer in handling those situations stress free since.

Unexpected changes?

I always struggled with Bikram practice. There were times I walked out in the middle of class. Once I was asked to leave the class, as I was having a panic attack. This is so funny now to remember. The day I tried out Dr. Theo’s Detox my mind unexpectedly changed. His way of teaching, excellent music choice made the big change for me.

What is different about SOMA that makes you want to come?

There are many things. I been to different studios around the world, SOMA is my top one. The variety of classes and workouts, the owners of the studio practicing and sweating next to the students, excellent teachers, friendly receptionist, cold face towels, best mango smoothie, cow shed products, waterfall in the hot room and one and only studio when you enter the yellow Labrador Obree comes to meet and greet you. You just feel like at home.

What’s the biggest injury challenge you overcame? What helped?

12 years ago, I was involved in a car accident, which left me with broken bones, slipped disc back pain and difficulty to walk. Strong painkillers was my only solution until I discovered yoga 5 years ago. Hot Yoga helped me to get of the painkillers in 3 months, and back to my normal body with zero pain. It just proves that yoga not only going to make you strong and flexible, but also it can fix you.

When do you feel at your best?

During the yoga practice, I leave the day behind and enjoy the moment of stillness and calmness of my mind.

Most challenging posture?

Standing Head to Knee my most challenging posture, as I do not have a strong back muscles, but I am working on it, and hope that one day this pose will be my most enjoyable pose.

Most enjoyable posture?

Side Crow is the posture I enjoy the most. It helped me to strengthen the arms and improve my balance.

Toe Stand – being a long distance runner previously, I had loads of problems with my knees; practicing Toe Stand helped to strengthen my knees and took the pain away complete.

Can Hot Detox Reveal the Secret Character of your Partner?

Can Hot Yoga reveal the secret character of your partner, co-worker or even yourself?

Yes, is the answer.

It’s a well known secret to experienced Bikram or Hot Yoga teachers that the practice of 26 postures in the heat can tell you a lot about a person especially the things they want to hide most about themselves or are not even aware of yet. Because it is a set sequence that requires precision, there is no hiding. It’s like practicing scales for a singer. I always say it is my yogic metronome. I will practice Elementals Flow, but come back to Hot Detox to check-in and see what’s going on at my base.

I’ve always told potential employers or new dating couples that they should bring their respective person to class and I will tell them what they need to know.

So for Valentine’s Day my gift to you is this – I reveal insights for unmasking yourself or your potential partner/employee.

5 Poses & What They Say About Character Traits

1. Standing Bow (ability to commit)

The one minute hold for Standing Bow is a test for one’s ability to commit to a pose and not give up. Those of us who still need to “dance around the issue” will usually dance around a pose that demands exact focus, determination and commitment.

As an example, my husband, Theo, has never come out of Bow early in over 10 years. He mastered the pose’s higher purpose rather than what people think is an advanced bow with extreme flexibility. So, I had insight into his ability to commit and stick with something/someone through thick and thin.

2. Awkward Pose (determination and drive)

This pose is about bulldog determination. You can see students who really love going deep into something and sticking with it. If they get right into it, really extend fully through the arms, stay completely still and have that look of utter focus, you know you’re with a person who will drive your relationship or work projects.

3. Standing Head to Knee (patience, focus and ego)

This is a signature Hot Detox pose as it reveals the mind’s ability to stay strong, focus and balance all at the same time. It’s also the one which teachers have the most pet peeves as we always say not to kick out unless the standing leg is straight. Yet, almost everyone ignores this cue as they care more about what the pose looks like. Hence, the ego. So, the student who goes to their true posture edge calmly and stays for the whole length of the posture is someone who can stay cool under pressure. They don’t need to look the part, but are confident with their own true abilities.

4. Hot Detox Triangle (leadership potential)

This closing master pose of the standing series works every muscle in the body. It also comes when the temptation is there to quit. The student who stays strong, does not fidget and leads the rest of the class into the pose, has leadership potential. I love seeing front row students taking this pose with strength, precision and using 100% of their bodies to extend themselves into the pose. They also try to give energy and inspiration to those who may be newer which means finding consideration.

5. Camel (emotional sensitivities)

Camel comes right at the end of class when we’re suddenly asked to open up the whole front of our body and take a backbend. Admittedly, for beginners, the first classes are usually too much. I’ve seen many  students suddenly burst into tears or have an overwhelming feeling of other emotions ranging from joy to anger. Camel can be one of the most honest moments in class. How comfortable are we to open up, reveal ourselves without fear. How comfortable are we with communicating our emotions?

Regulars will notice that your relationship to this pose changes through the years depending on what’s going on with your life off the mat. It will feel easy for awhile and then suddenly difficult again. If this happens, take an honest look at any communication issues, heartbreak or other self-esteem issues.

Fidgeter vs. Non-Fidgeter

Can’t stop moving, fixing your hair, looking around? Means possible issues with commitment or avoidance of unhealthy emotions. When we can’t stand still or keep our minds focused on one thing without distraction, we have yet to begin the journey of self-realisation.

The eyes may be the window to the soul, but the body’s movement patterns are a window to the habitual mind. If your new partner can’t stand still in class, you may find similar patterns in your relationship like changing plans a lot, always having to look at the phone over dinner, gets bored easily or needs to constantly socialise as doesn’t want or even fears the quiet solitude.

Blames Others Easily

The heat can be enough in the room to bring out our worst tendencies. That is the point. It is easier to meditate in a comfortable room, but who are you when your buttons are pushed and you are made to feel uncomfortable? Over 20 years, I have seen students get angry at the teacher, get upset with students next to them and complain about how other students “ruined” their practice.

Back in the day, the teacher’s name was never published on the schedule. Students were not to be attached to liking or not liking a teacher. Instead they were to come for the practice and the teacher was to be irrelevant. How many of us could do this today in the yoga world?

In the end, a liberated student knows that at all times, you are in control of your experience. If someone else can throw you off balance, it’s your problem, not theirs.

If you find yourself or partner complaining or getting angry after a class, ask yourself if there is a tendency to also look for blame in the work environment or personal life. Is it always someone’s fault? Do we need to justify our anger with what we consider valid reasons?

If so, ask yourself what was really going on underneath your anger? Are you feeling frustrated about something else in your life? Are you feeling unfulfilled?

Selfless or Selfish?

We are very strict about students leaving early from a hot yoga class. Did you ever stop to wonder why? Outside of a true emergency, there is no reason to leave the room unless you decided to give-up. We often are encouraged to think of a yoga class as only me and my mat. However, a more experienced practitioner realises that you are practicing solitude but you are also practicing with people.

Sweating together with other people for an hour is an opportunity to become aware of how your behaviour, energy, attitude affects those around you. Again, the heat by making one feel uncomfortable pushes a button and deep seated tendencies come out. Some students quickly shut off, say to themselves I hate it and leave thinking little of the effect on other students’ practice or the teacher.

On the other side of the spectrum, a student who moves so the person behind them can see in the mirror, or knows how to adjust movement if close to a student or offers water to someone struggling is a sign of a considerate person who is thinking about other while having his or her own practice.

In the end, one’s yoga practice is an amazing experience to share with a loved one, friend or colleague. It provides a shared understanding of the joys and difficulties inherent in the journey of self-realisation. There is no judgment only awareness of tendencies and ultimately what we can learn from them.

Let the practice be a continual mirror of self-reflection and unveiling.

SOMA expert: Dr. Siru Virtanen

This month we sat down with our very own Dr. Siru Virtanen for an exclusive interview about life, fitness and candies (!)

How did you get into yoga?

Whenever anyone asks me this question it makes me giggle, because funnily enough before my first ever yoga class I strongly believed I wasn’t a yoga-kind-of –a –girl and thought yoga was boring, slow and not a proper workout. I preferred high-energy sports and spent all my free time doing bodypump, bodycombat and salsa dancing.
A friend of mine attended a bikram hot yoga class and I remember her saying that she never had sweated as much in her life and felt so amazing after. This stayed in my mind for one year and then one random day I decided I want to try this hot yoga stuff too and marched to Jen&Theo’s studio in Cambridge. The feeling of being completely cleansed by the effort and the sweat got me hooked straight away after my very first class. With my intro offer I went to as many classes as possible and then signed up for membership. I started attending classes 6 times a week and went to as many workshops and retreats I possibly could and was lucky enough to learn with some really great, inspirational teachers. Since then then I have practiced several styles of yoga, but bikram yoga/detox26 is always my first and strongest love. My passion for this yoga is based on the results I see in myself and in my students physically, mentally and emotionally. In addition to the occasional TRX, yoga is my only form of exercise and I never in my life felt better not only in my fitness but sharpness and focused mind.

Most challenging pose for you and why?

This changes from time to time, but currently it is (bikram/detox26) Triangle. I have flexible hips, but I need more strength on my thighs to build a stable, strong posture. This is the beauty of yoga –building the perfect balance of strength and flexibility in the whole body, and there is always something new to work on and to discover.

Top yoga tip?

The posture you hate is the posture you need the most. Never skip it –instead try even harder. Remember to always try 100% the right way, even if that means you are doing only 1% of the posture, it still means you are doing it and this is how you get the best benefits. Most importantly remember every day is different, keep an open mind. Be patient with yourself and enjoy the journey.

Favourite SOMA class?

It has to be Hot Detox 26 –but that’s what I love about SOMA, there is so much to choose depending what your body or mind needs on a specific day. I also really love Elementals FIRE yoga and recommend everyone to try TRX Yoga Core – it’s great support for your yoga practice.

My masters in medical sciences and PhD in oncology has given me in depth knowledge of human body, anatomy and physiology.

Dr. Siru Virtanen

What’s your guilty pleasure?

Sweets –I used to have a real addiction to all sort of candies, but weirdly enough hot yoga helped with this too, my body (or mind) doesn’t crave them anymore. But during Christmas breaks –hello sweets! Horrible, I know.

How does your science background inform your yoga practice?

My masters in medical sciences and PhD in oncology (cancer research) has given me in depth knowledge of human body –anatomy and physiology and I apply this knowledge in several different ways in my own practice. I had a thyroid cancer scare myself 2 years ago and it was interesting to see how yoga practice helped my recovery from the surgery and kept my mind calm. I think my years of working in the lab as a meticulous cancer scientist probably makes me to think about the postures in very analytical way and I bring this precious to my practice and it also helps me in guiding my students.

Reveal your top yoga teacher pet peeve

hmmmm….do I have one? Ok, perhaps being late. Funnily this is something I also sometimes struggle with as I am often late with everything (except teaching)! And I guess we get annoyed with things that we find annoying in ourselves, but mostly this is my pet peeve because I feel bad that the student won’t have a good class if they are late and have to rush in. The class is not for me, the class is for the students, and I hope they can have the best possible class every time. Coming late can be distracting to yourself, to others, and also lead to injury if you miss some important warm up postures. Peek in before you come in and find yourself a spot quickly, but even better: leave few minutes earlier (*working on this too!)

I look forward to seeing you in classes and practicing with you at SOMA!

SOMA House Member: Dr. Helen Kim

SOMA House unveils the fierce grace of our women members who prove that what you will, you can become and what strength you desire you already embody.

What personal milestone have you achieved this SOMA term?

I’ve learned that I like hot yoga! This is a personal milestone for me because I never liked it before and would start to panic in the heat. Now, I feel like I’ve achieved something significant in being able to withstand the heat and in enjoying the practice!

Give three words that describe SOMA.

Excellence, dedication, process/practice. I think SOMA is really about developing a practice or a set of practices rather than solely focusing on one’s goals.

How do you feel after a SOMA workout?

After a SOMA workout, I feel really elevated . Moreover, I feel incredibly grounded. Finally, I felt energised.

After a SOMA workout, I feel really elevated. Moreover, I feel incredibly grounded. Finally, I felt energised.

Dr. Helen Kim

My training

Mondays  | Hot Detox 26
Tuesdays  |  TRX Spartan or Yoga Elementals Soul
Wednesdays  |  TRX Yoga Core
Fridays  |  Barre for Athletes
Sundays  |  Yoga Elementals WATER and Yoga Elementals SPACE

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