This week we introduce you to Alex Blanchflower, who is one of our Ashtanga teachers. Her classes are on:
Friday 15:15-16:30
Saturday 08:30-09:45

How did you get into yoga?

Around 2001, I fell sick with a debilitating autoimmune disease. Before that, I regularly ran and worked out at the gym, but while I was sick I didn’t have the energy to do any exercise at all. Once I started to recover, I went looking for a type of exercise that would be gentler and more nurturing than working out at the gym. My local yoga studio was running an 8-week beginner’s course and I signed up.

I didn’t know anything about yoga and didn’t realise there were different types, some more physical than others. It turned out that my school was a strict Ashtanga school. When I attended the first class I freaked out. I’d never done anything so hard in my life and I felt that I was in completely the wrong place! I really wanted to quit but I’d paid for the course upfront and was determined not to waste the money so I returned the following week. Around week 4, I had a moment of pure joy, something just clicked and I was hooked. I’ve been practising Ashtanga ever since.

Was there a moment when you realised that you wanted to pursue yoga seriously?

After practising at that school for a few years, I took a series of private lessons with my teacher. At the end of one of the sessions we sat down on the mat together and the conversation turned to my work. I wasn’t very happy in my career (Operations Research) and I jokingly said to him that I’d been considering quitting my job and training to be a yoga teacher. I expected him to laugh. Instead, he said he’d been waiting to see if I might ask about teaching and offered to take me on as his apprentice. I wrapped up my other work and pursued yoga from then on.

How has yoga changed you?

It’s taught me discipline and tenacity. It’s also taught me to be humble, because no matter how long you’ve been practising there is always someone who is better at it than you are!

What’s your advice to people considering starting yoga?

Just do your best and don’t take it too seriously. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses; embrace your strengths and don’t be frightened when the practice exposes your weaknesses. Oh, and come back next week!

Do you have a favourite quote or quote you try to live by?

I bend so I don’t break.

What is your approach to teaching?

I’m a stickler for proper alignment. If you practise with a good technique you will slowly progress. It’s easy to fall into bad habits and try to take shortcuts because Ashtanga is so challenging, but if you do this you’ll find your practice never really opens up. I’m very hands on with adjustments to help my students practise correctly.

That said, my first teacher was absolutely hilarious in class and always taught us not to take ourselves or our practice too seriously. Like him, I try to bring a bit of humour to my classes. If you’re having fun while you work hard you’re more likely to commit to the practice long-term. If you commit long-term you’ll reap the benefits.