How Yoga has been beneficial to me | JOHN WARD


John Ward






Student - Undertaking a degree in Archaeology at University of Leicester.  Work for the University Sports & Recreation department.

Sporting History:

Played Football for Doncaster Juniors, Scunthorpe Reserves, and Crowley United in the Lincolnshire League.

 Played American Football for Scunthorpe Steelers in the Budweiser National League.

Placed 2nd in the Harrogate & District Council indoor rowing competition.

Rowed for 6 hours on a Concept II rowing machine, achieving 78,437m, to raise money for Red Nose Day.


Sporting Qualifications:            

F.A. Preliminary Coaching Award, A.S.A Full Swimming Teacher Award, N.A.B.B.A Senior Fitness Instructors Award


Injuries sustained through sport:              

Achilles heal problems, Torn hamstring on both legs, Ruptured disc in lower back, Torn shoulder muscle


Present weekly exercise routine:         

Sunday           Yoga Exercises

Monday          Gym

Wednesday     Gym

Thursday        Yoga Exercises

Friday             Gym


Gym work consists of a two day split routine as shown below. Working 3 sets of 10 repetitions on the weight stations, and 30 - 40 minutes cardiovascular work using heart rate monitors to make sure I always train within my own personal training zone


Day 1 =  Chest/Back & Arm routine + 30-40 min CV work.


Day 2 =  Legs & Shoulder routine + 30-40 min CV work


How Yoga has benefited me:


As a youth there was not a day that went by where I was not playing, or training for sport.   My obsession and passion was the game of football, and I could not see myself doing anything other than playing the game as a profession, therefore I sought advice from several footballing coaches, regarding what I needed to do to make my ambitions a reality, and the basic response I received was that the harder I trained the better I would become.


With this newly found knowledge my enthusiasm was boundless and I took these wise men to their word, I trained harder than I had ever done in my life, sometimes training two to three times per day.  But nobody had advised me on diet, a carefully prepared exercise routine, or preparation for exercise, i.e. Warm up, stretching, and warm down.   It was all push, push and more push, the no pain no gain scenario, and I eventually found myself at the age of eighteen not only totally burnt out but carrying several nagging injuries that would continue to painfully and frustratingly plague me through the next twenty two years of my life.


Although since I have taken a number of sports coaching qualifications in which the benefits of stretching to prevent injury have been highlighted, and as a qualified fitness instructor I am constantly advising members to properly prepare themselves before attempting exercise, I must admit that in the past I have not personally practiced what I have learnt or preached.  Therefore this culminated in November 2001 with all of my past injuries resurfacing, where the pain involved was such that I had to completely stop all forms of exercise.


Merely stopping though did not improve the situation as the pain persisted and over the next two months even walking and sleeping became painful.    Luckily for me though the combination of observing a yoga class on television and the advice of a fellow college encouraged me to consider attempting this form of exercise, but before I did I wanted to know more about what it entailed, so borrowing a video tape of one of Anne Marie's yoga classes I decided to have a go.  


In no way do I want this to sound like a cheesy advertisement, but after undertaking the first session the results were amazing, not only did I feel relief from the pain in my shoulder, lower back and hamstrings, but I also had a feeling of being re-energized which lasted for a couple of days, then I stared to feel the pain creep back again.  Therefore I decided that for the next couple of month I would follow Anne Marie's advice on the tape and perform the exercises three times per week religiously, Sunday, Wednesday and Friday.


At first I found my flexibility limited my ability, but as advised I concentrated on my own capability and limits, not trying to achieve too much to soon.   While performing the exercises I found that it created a lot of heat within my muscles, which made me sweat profusely, but although the exercises are demanding in now way are they strenuous or painful.  At the end of each session, what with the combination of the breathing technique shown and the warmth of the body, it left me felling as if I had just been attending a meditation class not an exercise class, as not only my body was in a state of relaxation by also my mind as well.


Although, due to the demands of life, I could not attend an actual Yoga class I continued to do the Yoga exercises at home for the next three months.  The result of this being: -



            a)         No more pain in joints or muscles


            b)         I feel that I have more energy


            c)         Although I do not play sport anymore I have resumed the training programme mention in my profile.


d)             I am sleeping a lot better


e)         Greater flexibly & overall body strength



I feel that I can get on with my life now without interferance from the conditions mentioned which were causing me to feel depressed and dejected.   But it has occurred to me that if I had understood the benefits of Yoga at an earlier age then I would not have had to suffered for as long as I did, plus at present the Yoga exercises seem to be enhancing my workouts in the gym and I am noticing that I am making gains quicker than I have ever achieved before.    This leads me to believe that if I had combined Yoga with my football at an earlier age then I would probably have played a lot longer than I did, having retired through injury, and it would have help enhanced my fitness levels to the extent where I could concentrate on improving my skills rather than worrying whether I would last the game or training session through injury.


For any young sportsperson I would recommend that you incorporate Yoga as part of your training programme.   You may feel that you are invincible and recover well, but constant abuse, neglect and age will result in a similar situation to that which I have incurred.


For the older sportsperson with old sports injuries, there is no reason for you to continue to live in pain as I did, just have a go at one Yoga class and the benefits will speak for themselves.    

Sun Power Yoga founder Anne-Marie Newland talks to OM

How did you start yoga

My mother introduced me to her local yoga class in 1972; I was bored to tears. And then I found Iyengar in 1976 during an annus horribulus, but it did not hold me. It seemed empty for me. In 1983, yoga found me in my psychedelic designer clothes shop in London’s Kensington Market. At around 2pm, I had an epiphany. And the rest is history. I left my rock and roll life behind and walked into the light.

How did it affect your life

It changed my life dramatically. I found I was able to adopt the principles of yoga by dealing with things a lot better. I had a very hot temper and the meditation and chanting at the Sivananda centre in Notting Hill was working. People always expected me to fight them. I stopped and I still got what I wanted but with reason and skill. This was powerful stuff .

Tell us about the particular style of yoga you teach

After many years of apprenticeship, which included teaching for some years without asking for payment, I built up a solid following. I studied

Iyengar with Maxine Tobias, qualified with Swami Vishnu Devananda
in Canada, London and Berlin, and graduated at the Sivananda Vedanta Yoga centre in south India in 1984. I then studied Astanga Vinyasa with Beryl Bender Birch in the UK and followed Bryan Kests enigmatic and powerful style. I ran classes in local clubs, pubs, and schools; often stepping on cigarette ends and beef burgers left on the floor. All in all, I did my homework and by 2001, I had blended all I had learned by taking elements of all three styles - and Sun Power Yoga was born. I use all the subtle mind and breath work of Sivananda, the technique and alignment taught in Iyengar, and, as an ex ballet and contemporary dancer, this was a crucial element to good practice
and teaching for me. Astanga Vinyasa yoga was missing that touch of ow, grace and heat. I began teaching this eclectic mix and style to my classes and it became so popular that students began to ask if they could train to teach it. So, in 2003, we opened The Sun Power Yoga School. I started with seven students that year and now train 50 a year from all parts of the world. Apart from my four children, this school is my greatest achievement. We celebrated our 10 years anniversary on January 1, 2013. 

What do you enjoy most about teaching yoga

I am old school; teaching is a vocation. I was forced into taking my first jazz dance class in 1974 by a well-known choreographer now, Arlene Phillips. I really thought this was the pits. In those days, you were either a dancer or, if you didn’t make it, a teacher, but maybe that was my own prejudice because after that very rst class I was hooked. I’ve been teaching some sort of body work ever since. I am passionate about teaching because that day when I was 19 I discovered I could really help people feel good about themselves and give clear instructions as to how they could achieve a dance, an exercise and to put something of themselves into it. Teaching is a practical magic.

What do you think makes a great yoga teacher

A great yoga teacher is a person who works from a genuine passion for the work they do. It doesn’t matter what you do in life as long as it makes you feel good about yourself and it’s authentic. Don’t play at being a yoga teacher, be it because you genuinely want to do nothing else. That’s the same of any job you do but I know I am particularly lucky to have found my passion so young in life. Purpose has to be the Holy Grail; if it’s just a job then consider you still haven’t found your purpose. 


How do you fit your own practice around your teaching work

Apart from being a single mother-of-four, doing the washing, cleaning, taxi-ing, and being the main breadwinner, I do what I can each day by practising what I preach: be as kind as you are allowed to be, try to work things out with your children, give them some space and always do a job to your best ability. Make each second matter, don’t waste time, use it or be in it, its all yoga. I work six days a week and I can get on the mat straight after I have unloaded the dishwasher.

Do you have any favourite or memorable moments from your time on the yoga mat

Yoga for me is not about only being on the mat, it is a huge, inclusive concept of theory and life. So when I am on the mat I am able to bring all those elements together. My breath is in time with my mind and my mind in rhythm with my body. Creating Sun Power Yoga came from this union and a moment of intuition and inspiration. I had been thrown out of the Astanga elite crew that morning by letter for not being a purist.

I smiled to myself and realised I did not need approval or permission, just the courage to let my yoga experience take shape, then flight, and it did. Sun Power Yoga was born that day on the mat.

What do you do when you’re not teaching or practising yoga

I practise yoga in all I do or say: I get it wrong, I get it right and some days I am plain horrid and others divine. I run my school, which is very big now, and as founder and company director, I am hands-on in all aspects. On Saturday, I don’t open the computer, and spend time with my youngest teenage child. We chill out together. Sundays are our big teaching days and if I am abroad I am on the job 24/7. I don’t do hobbies. I love my work.

What would you say to those that have never tried yoga before to encourage them to take their first steps

I don’t encourage anyone unless they have shown interest and asked me about it. The most common statement I hear is ‘I am not supple so I can’t do yoga’. Dispelling people’s idea of yoga because of images and media is sometimes tough. I never told my children to do yoga, it was my path but there is no reason it has to be theirs. Having said that, now they are grown up they all practise it apart from my teenager who says ‘I hate yoga, it’s ruined my life”.

“I work six days a week and I can get on the mat straight after I have unloaded the dishwasher.”

Any words of wisdom for your fellow yogis?

Yes; be honest, allow your weaknesses to show as well as your strengths, admit when you don’t know something and be a real person. Pretending to be perfect is so hard to keep up. If you need help, ask, or you will always seem to be coping; maybe you are, but if you aren’t, then communicate it to your friends and family. Being human means that we are not meant to be alone. We are aspiring to reach a higher mental attitude but in the end it’s your heart that makes you feel your life.

Why do you think people should practise yoga

I don’t think people should practise yoga. I think people can find their own path in life and it just so happens that yoga is mine.

Find out more about Anne-Marie Newland at:





I guess you could say that sport and especially football plays an integral part in my life.

I have four wonderful and diverse children, and the two older boys are football crazy! I have stood many a Sunday morning watching my sons play in rain, snow and freezing wind and wondering how it happened that I ended up loving the one game I had always loathed as a teenager. Actually I think I was a culteral snob, having trained as a proffessional ballet dancer and really, ballet and football did, nt go out together!


So it was funny to find myself on the sidelines shouting and screaming and finding out just how and why it was that people loved football. Its sooooo liberating!


The funny thing was that the childrens father who I, d met as my own yoga teacher on a beginners course at the Sivananda Centre in London was also a MAD FOOTBALLER! And so my life took an interesting turn.I met the union of spirituality and good down to earth sport on the football pitch,in which most of the world find a common ground!


I actually think its no accident that they call the amazing union of all nations in the name of football as

THE SPIRIT OF SPORT, because I do believe that although we have trouble with sport I have also been astounded when I have been lucky enough to see boys of many races, colours, and religous beliefs who don’t speak the same language, unite under the flag of football.


Having said that,I can sometimes feel in a state of severe stress when the Arsenal supporter in the house has just seen Leicester city beat them and their supporter who also lives in our house is now jumping up and down with delight!

I dread those days because I must console one and congratulate the other!

That’s where I can use some of my vedic knowledge and say,THIS TOO SHALL PASS.


As the years passed and my yoga practice developed,my classes became bigger and bigger I was interested to see more men and to find that a lot of them were current or passed athletes.And these were predominatly footballers.

Have you ever seen an ex-footballer?Its heartbreaking at times, because their body is in such trauma.

When I say trauma I mean,tight,sometimes with so little mobility in the legs and lower back that is bordering on a disability!Their knees are usually damaged by simple wear and tear or serious cartilage damage which has left them with constant pain.

To be fair footballers these days can have excellent care,physiotherapists now have so much more knowledge as well as being open even to yoga and Pilates.


So it was with great delight that I one day received an email from Leicester City Football Club!

I was invited to do a masterclass with the under 19,s.This was so exciting as I would be working with the up and coming stars of tomorrow.I answered immediately and made a date.


Over the last few years,due mainly to my contact with athletes I taught more and more Astanga Vinyasa,or Power Yoga as I call it and it is with this medium that I am seeing so many amazing results.

However Sivananda Yoga has equally wonderful results so I decided to always incorpoate the yoga breathing tecniques which are not practised in the Astanga form although it has a strict breathing structure which is an integral part of Astanga.

So after I had settled down after the first flurry of excitement I then had to decide on a structure for the masterclass.I knew however that the hardest part would be to get over the giggles and the pedictable yogi jokes that I could guarentee would ensue!


I need not have worried.


Yes we had the jokes,but I played on them as part of the warm-up.I asked them what they thought yoga was and the replies were not that predictable.

One boy answered “stretching”,another meditating,and ofcourse we had the compulsory,sitting on your bum OMMING!I was having fun and we broke the ice! 

The boys ranged in age from 17 to 19,a lot were so tight in some areas like the hamstrings and calves that you could have been forgiven if you thought they had never excercised in their lives.And yet in some areas they were bulked-up ie,in the thigh area as you would expect.

I started the session with kapalabhati-forceful breathing to kick in the cardiovascular system and to flood the body with oxgen,well the results were interesting.At least two of the boys felt sick and light-headed,this was ofcourse due to all the oxgen pumping around the body.Now this shocked them as they believed that running during a match for 45 mins.would have developed their cardiovasculsr system to have made it superior to that of a yogi!but ofcourse I explained that they still did not use their lungs to their full capacity and that this type of breathing discipline would expand their lungs and use the the expansion of the rib cage to assist in full use of the lungs,as well as toning the tummy muscles and massaging the internal organs,and that the forceful exhalation would empty the lungs completely therfore enabaling to fill them to capacity too. myth number one hits the dust!

We then go on to deep relaxation because I can see we are never going to calm them down!

WOW!!! The result was amazing,their minds and I say minds rather than bodies were so in need of switching off that they were in danger of staying ther all night.I have teenagers and I know that they never stop mentally,always needing stimulation,even if their bodies look like they are in a state of total inertia!!!

It took no time at all to start a really tough Power Yoga workout because they had become focused.I used this term,focus,throughout the session applying the mind-body principle to their particular position on pitch.

I also discussed anger,lack of discipline and lack of confidence which could all be overcome by positive thinking and positive action and by using breath control and abdominal breathing before a game and after.

Now Astanga and yoga generally have odd terminology to a lay person but these kids had got down COBRA,DOG AND BREATHE DEEP with no trouble by the end of the session plus a couple of the lads had even begun to correct eachother.How wonderful.I felt so proud of them because these boys had’nt chosen to come to a class,they had been lucky enough to have had a coach with an open mind and a vision of the future in football as being more embracing of other and sometimes more ancient forms of exercise which could develop in a young person a whole approach to the body as not just that but the real power being there in the mind! 

We finished our class with the bit they loved best,deep relaxation.I did’nt want to wake them.

The result of that masterclass was that their coach loved it.He and the physio.had also joined in plus a lot more of the staff which was great because he was practising what he preached.

So it is now a regular slot in their training programme,lucky boys!

In my next article we will break down the basics to rehabilitatoin and improvement of the range of specific muscle groups that sportsmen and women lack through their football training. 

Each month I will highlight a different sport including,swimming,rowing,running,martial arts,,tennis and cricket and I would be most happy to include any sport you my practise yourself.I will cover specific excercises to enhance your own practise or training and take interveiws with some of the sportspersons I have had the pleasure to work with and you can hear their story and how yoga has profoundly changed their view on training and life too! 

Anne Marie has been teaching body work for 27 years.Her roots are in classical ballet,contemporary dance,jazz dance,woking with some of the best like Arlene Philips,Robert North,Fergus Early,the London School of Contemporary Dance as was and of course great yoga teachers like Iyengar.Swami Vishnu Devananda,Maxine Tobias whowas one of the first in the early 70’s.and the wonderful Narayani.

She has tavelled to many countries teaching and studying although these days she juggles a busy teaching schedule with some classes as big as 66 students with running a home and looking after four children.

She is just producing a yoga video aimed at her students but will also be available to the public.It is a power yoga workout based around her very unique style and features her “Saturday Class”.

Power Yoga is a system of yoga based around the ancient technique known as Ashtanga Vinyasa. This system uses extreme breath control and constant movement to generate heat. It is with this heat that the body reaches flexibility maximization. The maxim being ' you warm up to stretch.'

This yoga has been used with dramatic results on athletes and sports persons. It uses the body's own weight like conventional weights to build strength coupled with extreme muscle control.

This is a dynamic form which will give balance, strength and incredible flexibility. This is for men and women with a good level of fitness and is suitable for a beginner or an accomplished athlete. I work with footballers, skiers, rugby players, snow boarders, runners, rowers and cyclists.


Anne Marie Newland