I fell in love with Yoga the first time I tried it. (February 2009) The setting was perfect, the top floor of house in Guatemala overlooking the ocean. The class was intense and very hard!! Definitely not a class for a complete beginner like myself. But I see now it needed to be like that. Watching the teacher demonstrating handstands with her toes pointing back touching the top of her head like a scorpion blew me away!! Before that I thought yoga was boring, far from it!!!
I never thought wow I want to be able to do that pose, but seeing how far you can progress in yoga, that it’s a never-ending journey, set me on the path. I left that class exhausted but feeling amazing. My body had opened so much and I could actually breathe. It was nothing like any other form of exercise I had experienced before. I was hooked!
I came back to London and searched out my yoga teacher, trying different teachers until I found Corrie Preece at my local gym. I was never one of those students that went to class once a week, I was all or nothing. I gave up all other exercise and just stuck with yoga. Nothing else shook my body the way yoga did. I felt so good after class, like something inside of me had woken up. It was much later that I realised it was the spiritual benefits of yoga that I was experiencing. Yoga balances the body physically through aligning the body correctly and allowing the energy to flow, but also spiritually by opening up your chakras (energy vortex’s). Yoga also heals and detox’s the body through the different positions you get into, squeezing out the abdominal organs in a twist, or relieving back pain through lengthening the spine in downward facing dog.
Yoga changed my life and I was searching for that freedom I felt from my practice more and more. I got myself a bicycle and used that to commute to work. I felt exhilarated and refreshed every day. I started to seek out more meaningful experiences from life and took myself travelling to Latin America. It was in Latin America I realised I wanted to take my yoga practice further, so I headed over to India to take an intensive yoga teacher training course, heading back home via a few months in Thailand. Those months were amazing, practicing yoga twice a day most days and being surrounded by like minded people going through similar experiences to me.
I settled back in London in April 2012 and took on a Revenue Analyst role as a 6 month maternity cover. Towards the end of my contract they restructured the company and said I would need to re-apply for my role and go through the interview process. I just couldn't sit there in an interview and tell them how perfect I would be for the job that I dreaded going into every day. The only thing I looked forward to each day was my morning cycle to Triyoga Soho and my Ashtanga Mysore practice.
So I quit....and decided to take on a part-time 3 days a week Finance job and build up my teaching on the side. This new perfect job appeared within a week, and at the same time I had 2 new yoga classes. Very quickly I had more and more classes and was working 6 days a week, cycling to all my clients across London. After 1 year I gave up that job and took on 2 smaller jobs which meant I only did office work 1.5 days a week and taught for the rest. Since 2016 I have been teaching yoga full time. Following my passion has been the best thing I ever did and now I am able to share my love of yoga with all of you.
So here is the TRUTH….. I don’t like backbends.
It’s not all backbends that I dislike, I enjoy gentle chest opening, I love hanging out in upward facing dog and laying over a block. It’s camel, bow and wheel that are the fearmongers. If the teacher offers one of those poses, I don’t get excited. I take a deep breath and mentally prepare for the hard work that’s about to come. I go very slowly, I’m probably a few breaths behind everyone else, and I’ll come out of the pose before the teacher tells us to. From the outside they will look good, but inside is a whole other story.
I have to work hard to keep the compression out of my lower back, my right bicep hurts in wheel but it also feels better afterwards. Then there is the wave of emotion that comes along, the stuff that’s locked inside me that I don’t want to feel, probably the main reason I don’t like those poses. The stuff I need to work through, to release and let go of, the old heartbreaks, lost friendships, family feuds, a feeling of not being enough, the stuff that hardens me if I keep it inside. At home I will generally have a small cry during my backbends as the old emotions come up.
But I have decided to face my fear of backbends, I’ve committed to a teaching a workshop which means a lot of practice preparation for me. I know I’m missing out on a great part of the yoga practice by avoiding these. I’m also missing out on a great part of life, the more arm balances I practice without countering with backbends, the stronger and more independent I become, which is great, but doesn’t leave much room for a relationship. I have this great fear of depending on and needing other people, if I can do it all on my own no one can let me down me right?… but then no one can get close to me either….. It’s the poses that are the hardest for us that we need to give more attention to. Think about what you avoid in your yoga practice and where that fits in with your life off the mat.
I’m not sure where this post came from today, or why I felt the need to share. It’s very revealing from me and there is definitely some more emotion coming up as I write this.
See you this week for a backbend focused class. 💗
Yoga for Energy
I was feeling super sluggish this morning when I woke up and my muscles were aching. My chimp was begging me to stay in bed but I didn't listen.
Wednesday mornings are tough for this yoga teacher. On a Tuesday I work all day in the office, then make my way to Oval where I drown out the sound of the noisy gym with earplugs and take myself through an hours yoga practice. Afterwards an hours teaching, but this is no ordinary class. There are no doors on the studio, the gym music is playing, the weight machines are clanging, people start working out in the back of the studio and whilst holding the yogis in downward facing dog I kindly ask them to leave. It's as challenging for me to teach as it is for the yogis to find the stillness in their practice. I make it home after 10pm at which I can't help but eat anything in my fridge, I know I shouldn't eat this late at night as whilst I'm sleeping my body should be healing and cleansing not working to digest the food I've eaten.
So I wake up sluggish, with a belly full of food, knowing I have to cycle up the hill 30 mins to Hampstead to teach yoga. So I roll out of bed and roll out my mat. Happy baby and the reclining twists feel invigorating and refreshing but as I move into downward facing dog I feel the tiredness in my body, my nose becomes congested (recent flu) and I am unable to breathe. It's stop start for the next ten minutes with regular nose blowing and hushing the voice in my head saying to meditate and rest. As my body begins to flow through a few Surya Namaskar (sun salutations) my muscles begin to wake up and I start feeling strong again. The standing and balancing postures bring focus and clarity, the fog in my head is lifting. I feel the energy flowing freely in my seated postures as I stretch and breathe into the sides of my torso and my hamstrings.
I feel like a different person even after just a short 45 minute practice, fully energised, ready for the day and the cycle up to Hampstead. And I know the dread for the cycle is all in my mind, once my legs are peddling, my heart starts racing and the breath comes in thick and fast I will feel totally alive and exhilarated. It's a beautiful cycle, with Hampstead Heath to my right calling me to venture onto its paths. Nothing beats that sense of achievement when I arrive at my destination.
It's all downhill on the way home with wind blowing through my hair and the coolness of the air tickling my skin whilst my legs rest on the pedals not having to do any work.
P.S I beat the clock and made it in 23 mins
Yoga for the Homeless
I didn’t know what to expect when I signed up to teach yoga to homeless women through Crisis. When I arrived there were more volunteers than guests and the volunteers where scratching their heads for something to do. Straight away a lovely lady called Leo helped me carry some big gym mats through the hall to the chapel. We cleared the chairs and then started to round up the women. To be honest I thought this would all be organised for me and I would just turn up to teach the classes!!
I managed to find 2 women for the first class and it was perfect! They both new what they were doing, I was able to stick to the class I had planned and the music I had picked was perfect! Some really deep heartfelt Sanskrit chanting. You can get completely lost in the music and as it touches your heart it helps you start to get more connected to your body and empty your mind. I had a moment during teaching where I thought this is bloody brilliant! And this is what I’m going to be doing more of in 2013. Amazing!!
I did the rounds about 3 times for the 3pm class. By 3 I thought I wasn’t going to get any students and then 2 appeared, and 1 from the morning came back also! When I got to the chapel there was an amazingly warm lady in there. I invited her to join us but she said she felt so uncomfortable in her body, that she felt like she was still a baby in body. I said yoga can help you get more in touch with your body, why don’t you join us and just do what you can. Well you know you’ve got the confidence to be a yoga teacher when you can hold a class together for 4 homeless women who just want to do their own thing!
The first lady decided she only wanted to do standing yoga when I was planning to start the class seated, so I had to get her a chair. The lady from the morning was great, just copied everything I did. The younger lady in the middle’s mind was all over the place initially, then she decided to bring her own moves in and just started to do her own thing on the mat. The lady in the skirt with trousers underneath couldn’t work out how to get from 1 pose to the other so she was completely doing her own thing. 2 of them didn’t understand English very well so I had to make really obvious but simple body movements and hand gestures. They told me they wanted the music louder, one lady just stopped halfway through said she was too tired. They were very demanding. But the best part of the class was when the first lady was sat on the chair with her arms and legs spread out like a star whilst the rest of the class was doing hip openers. She was swaying from side to side to the music, I caught the eye of one of the other students and had to contain the laughter. My heart swelled up with love.
At the end she told me she thought she had gone to heaven and back and then energy of the room was outstanding, that it had been the highlight of her Christmas. Another lady wanted me to adjust her in a hip opener using my bodyweight to help her go deeper. And 2 of them made me write down their names to make sure I find them the next day I am there! So although it sounds like a mess it was brilliant, it all worked so well and I just let it be how it was meant to be.
What I learnt from today is along with being homeless, the women are also very unstable. Their minds are all over the place, or even in a completely different place. They need a lot of attention and kind support; they need guidance and direction but in the end will just make the yoga class what they want it to be!! I can’t wait for Friday!
Yoga on the Rocks
A few days ago I went rock climbing for the first time with Island Yoga Retreats in Thailand. I thought it would be really difficult and I expected to have fear and to struggle balancing and placing my feet, but I just went straight up. I was disappointed that it hadn’t been challenging as I wanted to feel the adrenaline pumping and my heart rate go up, so the yoga instructors let me go along with them for a climb on their day off a few days later. That day without doubt challenged me from the moment we left on the moped, and I couldn’t have done it without the skills I have learnt from practicing yoga.
Marc and I drove our own mopeds along a dirt road with uphill’s and downhill’s, turns and ditches to another hotel for about 30 minutes. I had to maneuver around the big holes and stay on the thin paths that had been created by the previous mopeds and this was only my second time on a moped! I came off the bike quite early on as I was going too fast and had no control. I escaped with minor grazes and bruises. After this I had to slow down and really focus. I couldn’t be distracted for a second incase the terrain changed. I treated it like a balancing posture in yoga such as vrikshasana (tree). I found my drishti (point of focus) and kept my attention on it the whole time, I didn’t let my eyes stray; I focused and concentrated. I couldn’t let the mind wander for a second or I would have lost my balance and fall. When my mind wandered, I would just bring the focus back to my breath. I took long slow breaths the whole time and approached each turn and bump slowly to keep control, just like one would coming in and out of a yoga asana. Breathing slowly really helped to reduce my nerves and anxiety after already falling off the bike; it calmed my mind and integrated my mental and physical balance.
To get to the rock we were climbing we had to wade through chest high water and hike over a hill for 15 minutes. I started to doubt myself whilst hiking and think that maybe it was beginners luck the first time and I was going to find the climbing really hard. Earlier that morning David (one of the yoga teachers), had said in yoga class that we create our own good luck through positive thinking and can also create bad luck with negative thinking. I’ve had so much good luck and many coincidences happen since coming to Island yoga that I knew with a little bit of positive thinking it would all be fine, so I pushed the negativity out of my mind.
I had high expectations climbing the first wall of the day and although it was the same level as the previous time it felt harder. It was probably created in my mind as I pressured myself to be good, but the wall was also higher and had a very tricky part. I approached the climb slowly and thought about each step as I took it. Every movement had control and strength and focus. No distractions. Skills I have learnt from yoga over the years. Patience was very important too. Yoga teaches patience through the slowness of the practice and not pushing yourself. Listening to your body and not getting frustrated if you can’t do the asanas. At one point I thought I couldn’t go further and I was ready to give up. I took a break hanging on the rope, rested and focused on my breathing, calming down my nervous system and stopping my mind from controlling the situation. I overcame the challenging section and made it to the top 20 metres high, looked down and appreciated the view. It was beautiful to look down at the limestone rocks out in the sea and the supportive face of Marc below me. I felt such a sense of freedom, lightness and exhilaration. It’s a similar sensation after a challenging yoga class when I don’t overstretch myself past my limits or compare myself to others, and breathe properly throughout the practice.
I also attempted to climb a very hard wall as the ropes were up already from Akiko and Christies climb. I didn’t get very high as the climb needed technique which I hadn’t yet learnt. I tried to climb over the point I got stuck about 10 times. I got closer each time but I just couldn’t do it. I had to know my limits and when to give up. My arms were shaking as I was using too much upper body strength and I had cuts in my fingers from my hands sliding down the rock. I recognized it was technique that was stopping me, and that was the reason I stopped trying. Having my mind and body in touch with each other, which yoga and meditation brings, allowed me to see the situation as it really was and appreciate how far I had come from my first ever climb, and to know when to let go.
I climbed one more wall and when I got to the top I realized if I unclipped the carabineers to clean the wall there would be a couple of metres where I could fall if I slipped. I was on a small ledge and had to walk across a few metres to the anchor to clip it in correctly and I was 20 metres off the ground. Holding the rock with one hand, I pulled up the rope creating slack and held it between my teeth and slowly and carefully I reached out for the anchor clipping my rope in. Once clipped in I climbed down and unclipped the rope from the mistaken anchor and lowered down from there. I was sweating so much from the fear. I had to stay calm, if I panicked I was more likely to slip and fall. It’s your mind that makes you panic, when you think something bad can happen and then from just one thought a million other thoughts arise. I was meditating up there, I couldn’t let anything come into my mind, I had to focus 100% on the task ahead of me. If anything bad happened it would have been due to my mind and not my physical ability.
The day was extremely challenging and enlightening as it made me appreciate how the skills I have learnt from yoga and meditation can be useful to call upon in other areas of my life, and how it has helped me become a more calm and relaxed person. It also showed me how other activities such as climbing and biking can potentially strengthen yoga and other spiritual practices, through teaching how to focus intently and quiet the chatter of the mind. Through my yoga teaching I hope to help students not only improve their physical and spiritual selves but also to help them understand how yoga can be useful in all areas of ones life.
I was working full time in a high pressured office job and studying for my accountancy qualifications in the evenings and weekends. I loved my job and enjoyed studying, but when my social life had to step aside for me to focus I discovered yoga, which gave me the space, clarity and a sense of inner peace I so clearly needed.
After qualifying, I decided to take some time out from my career and see the world. During my travels I undertook an intensive yoga teacher training course in India. This experience changed my attitude to my career and it accountancy no longer held the same interest to me. Over time I have transitioned from full time accountancy to virtually full time yoga teaching.
Having worked with many organisations from young, fun, media companies to money hungry city firms, I know how yoga can calm and centre you after a long hard day at work.
Through breath and movement yoga can give you space between office life and YOUR LIFE!