“Because yoga can help you feel so good, sometimes there is a tendency to present it all as positivity, love and light, heart-opening and unicorns. But in truth, it’s not all fluffy. When you practise yoga (not just asana) for a while, you find that it can make you more aware of the not so good too and teach you a lot about yourself (if you’re ready and willing to listen). So, I don’t expect myself or others to be perfect – after all, we are all in this together! It is all an on-going, life-long practice.”
I was recently interviewed by Yogamatters – just a few of the topics we touched on include:
- the importance of self-care
- why representation and visibility of diversity in yoga matters
- how my own experience of stress and injury has influenced my yoga practice and teaching
And much more. You can read the interview in full over at the Yogamatters blog by clicking here.
Thanks so much to Yogamatters for the interview feature 🙏🏾 🙏🏾 🙏🏾
This article was originally published in the July/Aug 2013 issue of OM Yoga Magazine. You can read a selection of my past columns and a preview of the current issue of the magazine by clicking here.
Recently, I overheard some yoga students discussing different teachers’ classes. The consensus was that those who provided strong hands-on adjustments and physically challenging classes were more effective teachers and therefore more advanced. Of one teacher’s handstand demo, a young woman wistfully commented that was where her own practice “should” be. Aside from feeling that this lady’s practice is perfect as it is whether those handstands come along or not, I think these comments stemmed from their personal preferences for strong classes. It raised a few thoughts though, most notably: What makes an effective teacher and what is ‘advanced’?
It can be easy to think that the ability to perform physically challenging, visually impressive poses equals a good teacher; particularly as so many of the yoga images we now see feature aesthetically pleasing people in awe-inspiring asanas. Sometimes the people who can do all those things are undoubtedly brilliant teachers but in my experience it has not been because they can do those things.
After eleven years so far as a yoga student, my feeling is that the most important quality of any teacher is not the ability to do Scorpion, but the ability to create a safe space.
In creating a safe space, the adjustments question is an interesting one. I tend to adjust verbally when I am guiding a class and occasionally use a light touch. For a while I felt very bad about not doing hands-on adjustments in class, but my own experiences of being hurt as a result of being adjusted made me wary. My view changed when I trained with Judith Hanson Lasater and she mentioned that the longer she has taught over the last forty or so years, the less she physically adjusts, instead mostly using words and always asking permission before touching anyone, borne out of her own experiences. I feel this comes back to teaching from the heart.
Many of the best experiences I’ve had as a student are with teachers who can’t do the fancy poses themselves but by their presence create a safe space for everyone in the room to explore their practice. To me, that’s the sign of a really good (dare I say, ‘advanced’) teacher.
As I continue to grow as a teacher, still new on this journey, I hope I’m able to do the same. Even if I can’t demo Scorpion for you.
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Heard the one about the yoga teacher who’s tired and wired?
Whilst chatting with a friend after our morning run, I burst into tears, out of the blue. I joked that I was just tired and emotional. Surprised? I shouldn’t have been. Yoga teachers get stressed too.
Those tears were a sign that I’d not been giving enough time to myself. On top of this I’d been finding it harder to wind-down without guilt, as there always seemed to be more ‘to-do’.
Yoga teachers who teach full-time will most likely have been there at one time or another and relate. I’ve found this to be a recurring theme and it’s not so strange when you think about it – we give a lot of our energy to others whilst teaching and if we don’t take enough time to replenish then it is only a matter of time before a slump comes. It’s the same for any of us in a life or work situation where we give a lot of ourselves. We all need to recharge. And it’s not selfish. Filling up our own cup enables us to give our best to the people, work and causes we care most about.
“You need a holiday,” was my friend’s advice. I knew a holiday anytime soon was not on the cards, but when I got home I did what I could in that moment – I lay down for twenty minutes. Yep, that’s right, Savasana, plain and simple. And you know what? I felt a lot better for it – no longer tired or emotional, my perspective had shifted. “I should do this more”. While I make an effort to get on my yoga mat each day, I admittedly don’t take Savasana every day. Why not when it has the capacity to make such a difference? Last month I wrote about slowing down and I find myself still thinking about that this month off the back of a busy, albeit exciting period. So, I’ve decided to embark on 365 days of Savasana – the easiest pose to do, yet the hardest to master. Everybody (yoga teachers included!) needs more Savasana in their lives. If you’d like to join me then come on over to www.ucanyoga.co.uk and click on the 365 Savasana tab. I’d love to have some company on the journey. Let’s see what we learn about ourselves on the way.
This article was originally published in the September 2014 issue OM Yoga Magazine. You can read a selection of my past columns and a FREE preview of the current issue of the magazine by clicking here. And find out more about the 365 Savasana Project here.
No matter how old I get, September is always associated with ‘Back to School’. The move into Autumn symbolises a time when many of us feel we need to get our heads down and get back to work after the summer. And before we know it, our daily calendars are full to bursting (if they weren’t already, that is).
I have an admission. I don’t like being busy. I like to be productive, to be effective and actually get things done. But, busy? To me, it’s overrated. I’ve increasingly noticed that whenever I say that I am busy the response is usually “that’s good”. And for a long time that was my response too. But why is that?
We have more time-saving technology and services at our fingertips than at any other time in history, yet we all seem to be busier than ever. Some of us wear our Busyness like a badge of honour. But is there a problem here? Are we confusing busyness with effectiveness?
Yoga teachers are certainly not immune from this. In London, where I live and work I see exhausted, scheduled to the hilt yoga teachers regularly. And I have fallen into this routine before too. For every class or client you guide through their yoga practice, you are giving your energy. So, there’s no surprise really that if you don’t take steps to replenish, it’s just a matter of time until you’ll burn out. However you spend your days, whether you teach yoga, work in an office, are a stay-a-home parent or anything and everything in-between, we can all work to burnout. But whom is that serving? From the point of view of teaching yoga, it’s tough to give your best in this state.
The busier we are, the less time we have. Time is arguably our most valuable commodity and it’s irreplaceable. It’s a significant thing to lose.
I think it’s time to stop worshipping at the altar of busy. Being busy for busyness sake or to attain more ‘stuff’ isn’t all its cracked up to be. What if we took another look and scrutinised what we are actually busy with? Try it and you might find there are things you can take off your to-do lists and lighten your mood and improve your wellbeing at the same time. Give it a go and notice the relief this brings.
This was originally published in OM Yoga Magazine. You can read a selection of my past columns and a FREE preview of the current issue of the magazine by clicking here.
Click here to learn more about the 365 Savasana Project.
In September 2014 I embarked on the 365 Savasana Project – the decision to practice Savasana for 20 minutes a day for 365 days. As we are about to embark on a new year, I also I find myself a quarter of the way through my year of daily Savasana and it feels like an ideal time to reflect on how it’s been so far. So, how has it been…?
(I bet you didn’t expect that from a yoga teacher 🙂 ) I did not expect it to be easy but so far it certainly has been much harder than I envisaged.
The actual act of lying down is simple. It is getting there every day, regardless of what is going on that has not been easy. And that’s coming from someone who loves Savasana and Restorative Yoga. In that case, why has it been so hard?
This has been (and continues to be) the biggest challenge. But I refuse to throw in the towel because I know that the more I feel resistance to practising Savasana, the more I need Savasana. I always, without exception, feel better afterwards.
The busier things get, the easier it becomes to neglect self-care. Yet, that’s when we most need to take care of ourselves. That’s been my personal experience, at least. Do you relate? Do you too find that you put your own self-care on the back burner as the pace of life picks up speed? Maybe you are taking care of others or have a demanding job, or you’re running your own business? There are a multitude of reasons why self-care may inadvertently fall by the wayside, especially during periods of chronic stress.
I’ve often prided myself on how much I can achieve in a day. Getting lots done and ticking items off my to-do list (the same list that somehow continues to grow as fast as I tick things off) can bring me great satisfaction. However, I’ve learned that being busy is not all it’s cracked up to be. Slowing down and practising Savasana reminds me just how powerful doing less can be. We do not have to worship at the altar of busy. For me, the past year has brought many ups and downs, as I’m sure it has for you too. My default, when the going gets tough is to, albeit unconsciously, let my own needs slide.
Let 2015 be different.
If you haven’t started your 365 Savasana but would like to, then why not begin today? You can find more details on how to get started by clicking here. I began my 365 days in September, but there is no official start or end date and it doesn’t cost anything apart from the time you allow yourself to practise. It is not a competition. It’s really about getting into the habit of taking some time for yourself each day so that not only can you give your best, you can be at your best. So, far from being selfish, you’ll be helping those close to you too. It is a simple and wonderful way to practice self-care.
However, if 365 days of Savasana is not for you, then I still encourage you to find healthy ways to look after yourself when you feel out of balance. Having your own personalised self-care toolkit at your disposal when you most need it will serve you very well.
Let’s all make self-care a priority in 2015.