Getting to Know Your Yoga Teacher
In inviting you to join me to discover your personal yoga practice with Align, the private yoga experience designed to spark your passion and begin your yoga practice, I thought I should answer some of the questions that I always ask of my own teachers when I consider committing to working with them one to one….
What is your own personal practice?
My personal practice is most consistently Ashtanga based, and I practice with support from my teachers in the Mysore room 4-6 days a week (often online these days – which as a long-term home practitioner I relish). It was the second style of yoga I learned and I fell in love with it’s consistency, challenge and meditative quality. It is one of few things that has truly helped me to calm and steady my mind.
After more than ten years it has been quite a journey; but I love that it is a practice that I will always have (however I choose to vary the poses to make them work for my body that day) and the way that it still has the ability to humble me at the demands and leave me in awe when my body can do something I never dreamt of being able to do.
I was never an athlete, gymnast or dancer; but now I can balance and find strength in places that I never believed would be possible for my body. At times, I couldn’t even put on socks without lying on a bed so I am grateful for every strong, pain free practice that I have.
Over the years I have also fallen in love with restorative yoga; this is what I turn to when I need to rest, re-set or when I am in pain (physical, mental, or emotional). I also practice vinyasa flow when I want something that responds to what my body needs and I want to explore something new. More recently I have fallen in love with gentler practices such as the joint releasing series; and am focusing more on breath work, chanting, meditation, and yoga philosophy in my personal practice.
Who do you choose to learn from now; who has inspired you on your yoga journey?
I have practiced in classes with many teachers, but I have worked closely, on a long term basis with two teachers privately and they have transformed my interest in yoga into a committed personal practice. My main teacher now, and for the past few years has been Amy Hughes. She’ a committed but rebellious Ashtangi who relished the challenge of helping me re-build my Ashtanga practice when I had very limited mobility.
Working one-to-one for several years I re-built my home practice, and now I practice with her (and the wider team) in the Mysore room and one to one. She helped me to focus on what I could do; helped me to find more self-compassion and to understand the power of listening deeply to your body and to really practice non-attachment and give away the poses that were not serving my body. She also introduced me to a deeply compassionate group of teachers who I have learned so much from; especially the teaching team at Meadowlark Yoga where I joined their YTT and the Mysore team. Her Anusara background encouraged my to explore more creative flows and sequences alongside my Ashtanga practice.
Initially, though, I was deeply inspired in this practice by my first private yoga teacher – Reg. I spent several years exploring Ashtanga one to one under his gentle guidance fuelling my daily home practice. He trained under Nicky Knoff and was deeply immersed in with Ashtanga and the more structured approach of Iyengar Yoga. His understanding and attention to personalised alignment (and love of props) is still a huge part of my practice – and I still see him in Sydney (when we were allowed into the country!) or when he is back visiting Scotland. It was his love of restorative and advice to check out the classes at Triyoga London when I was traveling for work that inspired me to fall in love with a restorative practice.
Why do you choose to teach yoga?
I did my teacher training with little intention of teaching full time. I had a demanding, successful career and really wanted to deepen my practice. I intended to teach for charities alongside my job while I planned a longer term career change – though when I dreamed, I wanted to paint, live by the sea and teach yoga.
I started teaching a group in my office and at Projekt 42 the week after I qualified; and I simply loved it. I loved the way that it brought people a little moment of peace. I could have been up since 5am to practice, then go to work and either taught over my lunch hour or a couple of classes straight after work and I would feel better than I had all day. The joy I got from helping others discover this practice that meant so much to me was so powerful that I changed my plans and took a career break to teach for a year and see if this really was something I wanted to do – to explore if this dream of teaching yoga, painting and living by the sea (which I already did) could work now rather than in another ten years.
I found that I really love teaching one to one; which was always my favourite way to learn. Helping clients discover things that their bodies can do that they didn’t expect and to discover the joy of a personal practice. Whether their aim is to hold a challenging balance; get up and down to the floor more easily – or finally find some space and permission to rest and relax.
What else are you passionate about?
I love to paint; and I adore living by the sea and spend as much time at the beach as I can. I am an avid reader and always have about 5 books on the go; this weeks it’s a novel set in Vietnam at the end of the war, a book on Epigenetics and lifespan, a couple of copies of New Scientist and Home Body by Rupi Kaur whose poetry always moves me deeply.