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Get Your Back Back In Shape

How the practice of Yoga can assist recovery from back pain and back injury

How much attention do you pay to the care of your back?  Although a healthy back is critical to carry out the activities of everyday life, most of us take it completely for granted.  This complex and sensitive system of inter-connected bones, muscles, soft-tissue and nerves copes with a great deal of strain from simple daily living, which can compound year after year, causing injury and/or pain.

What happens when such an indispensible part of your physiology starts to become a source of pain and discomfort?  Are there natural remedies available that can help relieve your symptoms and possibly deal with the underlying problem?

If you are suffering from back pain you are not alone.  According to BackCare, a charity campaigning for healthier backs, it is estimated that 80% of adults will experience back pain at some stage of their life. In most instances back pain is minor and short-lived.  However, some people suffer from more serious back pain brought on by a back injury, strain, or an unknown cause, which affects their ability to live life to its fullest potential.

How Yoga Can Help Your Recovery and Ease Back Pain

According to two studies published separately in the Archives of Internal Medicine (2011) and Annals of Internal Medicine (2011), participating in the practice of Yoga can help with lower back pain.  The research published in Annals of Internal Medicine was obtained from the largest research trial on Yoga to date, worldwide.  It involved 313 participants and showed that those who attended specific group Yoga classes run by fully qualified and trained Yoga teachers, experienced relief from non-specific chronic and reoccurring lower back pain.  The study also showed that the benefits obtained continued for one year after participants completed the twelve week course and practised Yoga at home.

Dianne Kenny, Director of The Courtyard Centre for Health & Wellbeing in Biggleswade is a fully qualified Yoga teacher and a member of the British Wheel of Yoga, the ‘Sport England’ recognised national governing body for Yoga.  She states that Yoga differs from physiotherapy in that it takes a holistic approach to healing, concentrating on the breath, mind and body as a whole.

According to Dianne, “the most important thing you can do to assist your recovery from a back injury is to keep moving”.  She goes on to say, “even if the injury is serious, you can lie on your front and breathe into your diaphragm which will help massage both the upper and lower back.  This exercise also massages the adrenal glands, and studies have shown that this helps relieve and release stress, anxiety and discomfort in the lower back which helps aid recovery”.  

Using Yoga to strengthen your core helps align the pelvic and back muscles and improve your overall posture.  This, along with better breathing practices, can reduce the strain you put on your back through everyday activities, thereby reducing your chances of suffering from back pain or injury.

If you wish to know more about how Yoga can help you regain and improve your strength and vitality come and talk to us, we are always happy to help.  Our fully qualified Yoga teachers can advise you on what programme is best suited for your needs.





An Interview With Liz Burfield, Our Personal Trainer And Boot Camp Guru


Liz Burfield provides our Personal Training and runs our popular Boot Camp classes.  After working in the legal profession for a number of years she decided to make a career change and do something she was truly passionate about helping others enjoy being active and achieve their fitness goals.  It is now two years since she went out on her own as a Personal Trainer and she has never looked back.  We caught up with her to ask her some questions about how she came to make such a dramatic career change - and what is in a Personal Trainer’s refrigerator!


How did you make the move from law into personal training?

I studied law at University and ended up working for a commercial law firm in London.  Although there were some aspects of the job I liked there were many that I didn’t.  I felt it was taking over my life in terms of hours and often the pressure was very intense and I could only see it getting worse as I moved further up the career ladder.

I have always loved the outdoors and being active and even considered becoming a games teacher when I was in school.  After bouncing a few ideas around it became clear that what I really wanted to do was be able to combine my love of activity with being able to help others and becoming a Personal Trainer was the best way to achieve this.  I completed my Personal Training qualification and then began to take on clients while working part-time in a Business Intelligence role.  Then an opportunity for voluntary redundancy came up and I thought “it is now or never” and took the plunge to go out on my own full-time.

What have been your career highlights so far?

Definitely going full-time - I am so pleased I took the risk and made it work for me.

Taking a client who was a complete novice at running, getting him ready for the London Marathon and then getting him through the event is one of my fondest achievements.

Starting the Boot Camp sessions at the Courtyard Centre has been a wonderful experience.  I love the camaraderie of the classes and the creative aspect of developing new games and activities for each session.

What is your personal fitness regime?

Obviously my fitness routine is tied into my job.  If I am training a runner then I will do a lot of running as part of my session with them.  Outside of work I run a couple of times a week and incorporate bi-weekly resistance training sessions.  I also do a weekly Yoga class at the Courtyard Centre as well as the 5 Rhythms’ dance class on a Monday night which I do for fun (and because it’s an amazing experience) but it is also a brilliant workout!

What are the advantages of having a Personal Trainer as opposed to exercising on your own?

Obviously one of the biggest advantages of having a Personal Trainer is motivation.  It is quite difficult to back out of a training session when I turn up on your doorstep!  Also, busy people have a limited amount of time so I can assist them by making sure their fitness regime is focused so they reach the goals they set themselves in the time they have available to work out.  As a Personal Trainer I can also observe a client’s technique to make sure they are doing specific exercises correctly and avoiding injuries.

What is Boot Camp?

Despite its name it is definitely not me shouting at people and making them trudge through one hundred press-ups!  It is a very varied and fun class with circuit style workouts, individual challenges, partner drills and team games.  We make the most of using different sorts of equipment such as free weights, Swiss balls, agility ladders and resistance bands. The whole program is designed to get the heart, lungs and muscles working so you get a full body workout and both cardiovascular and strength benefits.

In addition to the content of the class, one of the good things about Boot Camp at the Courtyard is that it runs on an entirely drop-in, pay-as-you-go basis. Hopefully this suits a lot of people who can’t always commit to being there every single week and don’t want to have to pay the sign-up fees or monthly charges that you often see at other centres.

What is the philosophy of your training?

My most important philosophy is that you can laugh while you exercise.  Too often people see exercise as a punishment and I want to encourage people to really enjoy their bodies and relish what they are capable of.  Also, everyone is different and there is no “one size fits all” approach to exercise.  I treat all my clients as individuals and design programs unique to them.

What are the staples in your refrigerator?

I do try to eat healthily most of the time, but definitely think there’s a place for treats.  I love hummus so that is always in my fridge.  I tend to do most of the cooking and many of my recipes seem to contain tomatoes, onions, garlic, peppers and spinach.  I am not a vegetarian but I do try not to eat too much meat mainly to support the environmental benefits of limiting meat intake.

How do you motivate clients to be consistent with exercise and stretch themselves?

It is important to develop an exercise program the client enjoys which makes committing to regular workouts so much easier.  Setting realistic goals and targets is vital to maintaining consistency and motivation.  I do regular fitness tests on my clients so they can see the difference the effort they are putting in is making.  I also encourage people to reward themselves with something that fits in with their goals such as a new gym outfit when they reach one of their targets.

What would be your ideal Sunday?

Although I like to sleep-in I would wake up reasonably early so I knew that I had the whole day ahead of me.  I try and meditate every day so I would start off with that.  Then breakfast.  I am a porridge addict and my husband and I take turns at making breakfast at the weekend so on my ideal Sunday it would definitely be his turn to make it.  Then we would head out with some friends and a picnic on a country walk and then be back in time for me to cook a nice supper.  I am a big fan of Jamie Oliver and recommend trying his Cauliflower Risotto if you haven’t yet!  I have persuaded my husband to give up TV for Lent so the rest of the evening would be spent knitting or with a good book.

Who are your personal inspirations?

I tend to find my inspiration in the stories of people I have encountered or come to know: often ‘ordinary’ people have done incredible things.

For example, I often think of a good friend of mine from my Personal Training course.  Very sadly, she had malignant melanoma and unfortunately passed away the following year.  However, her positivity, kindness and compassionate nature have touched me ever since and she made me realise that we truly have the power to choose our attitudes towards difficult situations.

As I grow older, I hope to emulate a man I met on a skiing holiday a few years ago. Although he was in his sixties he was always on the first ski lift going up the mountain in the morning and on the last one coming down at night. He clearly enjoyed life so much and I hope to have even half his joie de vivre as I age (disgracefully!).

On a different note, the writer Pema Chödrön who is a Buddhist teacher and nun living in Canada is a huge inspiration to me.  She writes about how to deal with difficult times gracefully and how to live a more compassionate, balanced life.  I believe true fitness encompasses physical, mental and emotional well-being.  I also believe in her principle that courage is not about the absence of fear but moving forward in spite of it.

You can find out more about Liz on

Five Delightful Benefits of Baby Yoga.


In the first few months after having a baby the last thing many people want to do is put on some work-out clothes and head to a Yoga class. In those first bleary weeks even simple tasks such as cooking a reasonably healthy meal may seem insurmountable. However, some things really are worth the effort and Baby Yoga is one of them.

Baby Yoga is a wonderful way to bond with your baby. Babies naturally love to be gently caressed and handled and practising Yoga is a perfect way to do this in a calm, relaxed environment.

There are many reasons why regular Yoga practice is beneficial to both parents and babies and here are our top five.

1. It helps parents to develop sensitivity to their baby’s wants and needs.

Not everyone finds parenting instinctive and not all babies are easy to read. The calm, focused practice of Yoga can help parents tune into their infant’s cues. It also provides space to begin to discover your little one’s unique personality.

2. Yogi babies sleep better.

Calm, contented babies who are able to self-settle and get plenty of sleep make for happier infants and cheerful, well-rested parents! Yoga poses will help relax your baby’s muscles and your gentle touch will help calm their busy minds to encourage longer, more restful sleep.

3. It is a great way to get out and meet other parents.

Being at home with a baby all day can get pretty lonely. Attending a regular Yoga group is a wonderful way to meet other like-minded parents who can offer you support with the crazy, all-encompassing journey of new-parenthood.

4. Yoga practice helps your baby’s digestion.

A baby’s delicate digestive system can benefit greatly from Yoga exercises such as gentle cycling movements of the legs. This can help relieve wind, which in turn, will assist with better sleep and reduced fussiness.

5. It’s fun!

Participating in Baby Yoga with your infant is a marvellous way to develop and maintain strength, flexibility and a peaceful mind for the both of you. Combining communication, touch, and song, Baby Yoga provides a perfect setting to strengthen the bond you already have with your little one.


Remember, Yoga is great for Mums too! Post-natal Yoga classes can assist with strengthening your pelvic floor, regaining your pre-pregnancy body and maintaining a calm, centered mind.