What is your practice style of yoga
Like all teachers I practice what I teach; mainly a dynamic, flowing style of Hatha combined with mindfulness based meditation. Over the years I’ve drawn influence from a few different styles including Sivananda and Ashtanga. My practice changes depending on how I feel and how much time I have in the day. Sometimes I enjoy a short, strong practice and other days a slower, more contemplative practice will suit my mood.
How long have you practiced for, and how many times a week do you practice?
I began taking classes when I was 21 and living in London. I turn 41 this month and in those years since my first class my practice has changed hugely with my life and with my teachers. I’ve gone through periods of intense daily practice and other times when it might be just once or twice a week. At the moment I try to get on my mat at least 5 times a week, sometimes life has other plans of course and I try not to be hard on myself if I can’t make it, that’s the yoga too.
Why did you start practicing?
Ha - if I’m being honest it was because Madonna was doing it! Well I was an impressionable 21 year old! But the other main reason was because I was very stressed and anxious growing up and I think on some level I understood that it might help. My dad has being doing yoga for as long as I can remember and I’m sure there were elements of his practice that influenced me to go to my first class.
What do you get from your practice
I feel calmer, stronger, happier, lighter and easier in my body. One of my first teachers talked about the ‘monkey mind’ in class and I always joke that mine has always felt like a particularly over-active and negative monkey! Off the mat, yoga has also afforded me the space and perspective to understand myself a little better. I still struggle with aspects of anxiety everyday, my monkey is definitely still with me but I’ve been able to observe and notice it more so it controls me less. Today I teach self-compassion and non-judgement in my classes. Too often people come to the studio with an idea of how the postures should be, or how they would like their bodies to look and move, but for me the most important part of my teaching is acceptance of where we are right now. For too long I forgot this in my own life and practice.
What do you teach at The Reach
I teach two very different classes at the Reach. Thursday evenings at 7.45 is my Dynamic Hatha class this is a flowing style of Hatha focusing on slow, strong, mindful movement, with an emphasis on alignment and breath. As it’s a late evening class we always wind down with a meditation and relaxation, ideal just before bedtime. Once a month I get to share the Rest and Relax classes with my friend Joanne who is a Reiki master. This is an alternative experience of the mind, body connection and we often get people who wouldn’t usually come to a yoga class enjoying the immersive atmosphere of the deep relaxation. This class combines different modalities including restorative yoga, which uses props to support and hold the body, mindfulness-based meditation, and yoga nidra to explore a deeper sense of release in both mind and body. Those that come along can also have the opportunity to experience Reiki with Joanne [these places are limited to 5 per session and must be prebooked]. It’s fun and we usually have a few people snoring at the end!
In your opinion, who is most suited to yoga and why?
It sounds like a cliché I know but it really is for everybody. Some of my most profound and rewarding experiences of sharing yoga have been with people with limited mobility or energy. At it’s root yoga is about focusing the mind, and in this age of constant distraction who wouldn’t benefit from that?! If you can breath you can do yoga. I encourage all new students to try different teachers and styles until they find one that resonates for them.
What is the best advice you can give to someone thinking of starting Yoga?
Come with a sense of humour and an open mind. I still feel like a beginner. My ideas and thinking about the tradition are constantly challenged when I go to workshops and visit new teachers, the tradition and teachings are so vast it can sometimes feel overwhelming, I know enough to know I don’t know a lot. Zen Buddhism talks about ’Shoshin’ or ‘beginner’s mind’ and I think this is a big part of practicing yoga, it teaches us to stay open both physically and mentally as we get older. I feel I’m moving into a new phase in my life and my practice where I’m beginning to explore the more subtle aspects of yoga and it’s philosophy, this feels exciting and challenging for someone raised a spiritual sceptic!
Who inspires you yogically?
The Reach's very own Nicola still inspires me with her dedication and rigour in her practice, Angus Ford Robertson at Battersea Yoga is also someone who really inspired my practice early on. I’m also inspired by teachers who challenge our understanding of what yoga is and how we think about it today such as Peter Blackaby and Amy Matthews. I’m always reading and listening to different teachers from different traditions and backgrounds and some of my favorites are Eckhart Tolle, Jack Kornfield and Michael Stone. I try to integrate some of these different teachings into my classes so that people who come along can take the lessons of yoga off the mat and out into the rest of their lives. This is where I’ve had the most benefit over the years. Teaching for me is just a continuation of my practice, sharing what I’ve learnt and how it’s helped me.