my yoga journey
In 2012 YogaWest asked their teachers to complete a short interview about their experience of yoga and style of teaching.
I found the experience a really positive one, so decided to share my thoughts here.
How did you get into yoga?
Years ago I worked as an event manager and was promoted to a new position that was exciting but took me way outside of my comfort zone. I started to realize that with the high stress environment, tight deadlines and drinking far too much coffee, I needed to find something I could incorporate into my life to bring me back to a place of balance.
I enrolled with a friend on a small local yoga class and never looked back. An hour and a half later I left feeling lighter – in both my mind and my body – and I knew that there was something in this practice that brought a joyful sense of balance to mind, body and spirit, in the midst of busy London life.
I was also amazed on my first class that the teacher was doing it in skinny jeans! Years later, as a teacher, I realize that she’d probably done what we all dread and left her teaching clothes at home!
Was there a moment when you realised that you wanted to pursue yoga seriously?
It was actually during a challenging time in my life that yoga changed from being something ‘I did’ to something that I knew was a part of me, that I knew I needed to dive deeper into and incorporate into my life on a daily basis.
I’d stumbled across a teacher – Yamuna, who now teaches at the Light Yoga Space – whose classes enabled me to discover first-hand the healing and transformative nature of the practice – something deeper was stirring inside.
A daily practice soon led to yoga and meditation retreats, then to the realisation that I wanted to immerse myself in this practice, to discover more about yoga off the mat as much as on it, so that I could pass on these benefits to others.
How has yoga changed you?
It’s funny because in answering this it strikes me that rather than it feeling like yoga changes you – which it certainly does - it feels as though it brings you back to a place that feels more like yourself.
It slowly strips away the stuff that you don’t need, the limiting thoughts and beliefs that we all accumulate in life, the stuff that leaves you tense and closing up, and instead opens you up to the real possibilities of who you actually are without all of that.
I think its biggest transformation in me though has been one of mindfulness. Taking the time each day to be fully present – with the reality of where I am here and now – being kind and compassionate to however that finds me. It allows you to move through life from a more truthful place. And it makes you notice the beauty in the little things which keeps the bigger things in life in perspective. Something very necessary when living in big, bustling cities I find.
I’m certainly a much happier, more relaxed person than the 25 year old event manager with my third coffee of the day in my hand.
What is your approach to teaching?
My desire as a teacher is to help everyone discover the beauty that they have within them, regardless of their age, size or level of experience. I so frequently hear people saying “I’m so inflexible, I can’t do yoga”. I want students to realize that flexibility of the body is just a bi-product of yoga - it happens in its own time, with a lot of practice and patience. Everyone can do yoga, it’s about finding the right class and right teacher for your particular needs. It’s a practice of discovery that comes when we are working mindfully with our body and with our breath without expectations and without judgments.
I design practices that enable students to reconnect to their bodies, breath, strength, vitality and spirit in a compassionate and mindful way. I offer variations and invite people to listen to which feels right for them in that moment, that day. We are all different and our practices will all look different – that’s something to be celebrated.
I believe that warmth and humour are essential elements of my teaching, enabling everyone to find the beauty of yoga within them at their own pace.
Ultimately I hope that people get to experience a beautiful sense of transformation inside of them that starts on the mat but slowly trickles into their everyday lives.
What advice would you give to people who are considering taking up yoga?
I guess my advice would be to try to ‘feel it’ rather than ‘think it’. We spend so much time in our heads nowadays, judging ourselves against others. When we move out of the thinking mind and into the feeling mind we experience the practice in a different way.
I would also say to remember that yoga teaches us many things - including patience, compassion, acceptance – it’s not all about being bendy on a mat. In fact the most advanced practice can often be learning to love and accept ourselves at whatever stage we are in our practice, rather than focusing on where we wish our bodies were instead. Before you know it those qualities spill off the mat and into life and everything feels just that bit better.
And if you’ve tried yoga but found it wasn’t what you were looking for I would say always try a few teachers and a few different styles of yoga. Yoga can be like music – it’s about exploring styles, discovering what you like and which suits your current mood and needs.
Do you have a favourite yoga quote?
Ooh there are so many lovely ones but one that stands out for me and reminds me of life’s priorities is
Health is wealth
Peace of mind is happiness
Yoga shows the way.