How did you get into yoga?
When I was at University a few friends had been discussing yoga, and it sounded like something that I would be interested in. I had always struggled with anxiety and it seemed to be a calming practice. Over the following ten years I dipped in and out of yoga classes, but always left with a sense of discontentment, or even worse, a feeling of not being enough. It was only when I was in my thirties when I started taking classes with some amazing practitioners in London, that I realized that all the classes I had been to had treated yoga as merely an exercise to be completed, without any notion of the wider context of yoga. When I found teachers that taught about the richness of yoga, it’s ability to heal, and its numerous physical and spiritual benefits I felt an overwhelming feeling of arriving home, and the rest as they say, is history.
Was there a moment when you realised you wanted to pursue yoga seriously?
I had been practicing for about a year in London, and although I was feeling those moments of peace and tranquility, it felt like I wasn’t making the progress I wanted to in myself. I just couldn’t put my finger on what was going wrong. I stayed behind after class one day and said to my teacher ‘I’m reading all the books, I’m practicing regularly but I just feel like I’m stuck’ and she said to me, ‘you can read as many books as you possibly can, but are you really doing the inner work? Are you living what you read, are you practicing it as a way of life?’ and that was such a pivotal moment in my practice. I was coming to my mat everyday but off it I wasn’t embodying what yoga really meant, I hadn’t opened up to healing. From then on I can (DELETE THIS WORD) became more serious about living a life of yoga and I haven’t looked back.
How has yoga changed you?
I don’t think any of us really realise how much healing we have to do, every day on a daily basis. It never stops. Yoga has healed me, in ways I didn’t believe were possible. I say healed, but it’s still ongoing as it is for all of us. I remember being in a yoga session with Christian (Cohelo, a fellow Yoga West teacher) during lockdown and saying some days I feel as if there are steel doors around my heart. I was envious of all those around me that were so open and seemed so free. 18 months later I feel the most open I have ever felt. It’s not to say that I don’t still feel fear, anger etc but it’s allowed me to connect more, to develop a self-awareness, and ultimately to bring me to a place of peace where I feel I can support and be of service to others.
What’s your advice to people considering starting yoga?
Using the words of Brianna Wiest, “Life isn’t about being certain, it’s about trying anyway”. Starting yoga can feel scary, our minds and body seek comfort and safety, but here’s the thing; there’s no such thing as real comfort, and there’s no such thing as being safe. All there is what we know and what we don’t. Yoga can be your most beautiful anchor. Yoga is so much more than the asana and when you find teachers and communities you connect with it will feel like the first day of Spring.
What is your approach to teaching?
Yoga for me is a deeply spiritual practice, a chance to take another step on our healing journey. My approach to teaching is a mindful one. I wholeheartedly believe yoga is for anyone and everyone. I’ll tell you a secret too; not all yoga teachers are flexible, not all yoga teachers can do all the poses. Excellent asana does not equal excellent student or teacher. In my opinion, a good yoga teacher is one who can see beyond the constraints of the body and support everyone to find their spiritual strength and this is what I will always try to do. I encourage my students to intuitively feel what is best for them, I offer lots of options, and I support them in finding their connection to their spirit. Peace before the pose, always.
My favourite quote as a yogi:
“Yoga is the ‘becoming’ and the ‘ceasing’…when the knots in the heart that bind one to this world are all cut, then a mortal becomes immortal, such is the teachings.” (Katha Upaniṣad; Bryant, 2009).