Yoga didn’t save me…


People say to me ‘oh you must be so fit doing all those yoga classes every week’ or ‘well of course you can do that – you’re really fit and flexible. I would never be able to do that’…

…and then they don’t want to try.

Yoga has a perception in western countries as a pursuit for svelte, sexy females – preferably scantily clad on a beach somewhere…

Well… that’s not what I signed up for! And it sure isn’t what my students get!

We’re more the ‘farts are funny’ school of yoga. My ethos is to make a safe, warm, comfortable environment where you can give yoga a go without fear of failure or judgment – we’ve all got strengths and weaknesses and part of the magic of yoga is that it teaches you to celebrate both. You can find a sense of achievement both from a posture you find easily fits your body as well as from taking a tougher pose step by step and seeing why it’s great to find that balance.

Balance is really what it’s all about. Physically, mentally, metaphorically, literally…

Once you understand that Yoga is a way of life, a whole lifestyle that can lead to a calmer, happier existence, that’s when you’re really getting the benefit.

The hour or stretching, posturing, sweating, that we call ‘Yoga’ is really only one part of the full Yogic lifestyle. True Yogis – the ones floating in caves in the Himalayas – use the physical part of Yoga to condition their bodies to sit for a long time.

Yes, just sit.

In that context, the sitting is actually meditation. They strengthen their bodies, so they can sit comfortably without distraction for hours on end.

I’m not suggesting you’re about to do 8 hours straight staring at the Aum symbol – but I don’t know about you, I sure as hell sit for a long time in front of a computer all day… I sit in the car on the M6 singing to Taylor Swift to the amusement of other road users… and as soon as I get the chance I sit on the sofa watching episodes of Grey’s Anatomy with a purring moggy.

What if we could condition our bodies so that even when we’re inactive, our bodies are working to boost focus and concentration with correct posture, alignment and allowing our energy to flow from root to crown without kinks and knots?!

My vision is to help my students adapt the teachings of the yogic lifestyle and apply them to modern day life without losing the authenticity of the teachings. Using Yoga to boost their existing day-to-day activities so that practicing isn’t a chore, but an essential part of their routine.

But Yoga isn’t the be all and end all. Balance, remember.

When I started practicing Yoga regularly it was out of necessity. In fact, I did it begrudgingly wishing it was something else, something more hardcore.

But that was the point. At the time my body wasn’t up to doing anything more strenuous. I’d spent two years completely signed off work and all forms of exercise. Even brisk walking was frowned upon.

Anorexia Nervosa was my demon, my inner monster. Only it wasn’t so subtle in the end. A bag of bones with a perpetually pissed-off-face (mostly made of big teeth) and baggy clothes. Mum said my breath smelt and that people would give me a wide berth in the street (which may, or may not have had anything to do with my breath…) I smoked, drank black coffee and vodka and every now and again a lettuce leaf or solitary mushroom would pass my lips.

Before being diagnosed, exercise had been a huge part of my life. Being physically active is a massively important part of keeping a healthy body and mind, but I don’t do things by halves and we later found out that over-exercising is a classic symptom of Anorexia.

So, once the doctors finally had their hands on me they put a stop to that and I had to do a lot of sitting. Hence the pissed-off face.

To be fair to the health professionals (and my poor, long suffering Mum) their apprehension was real. When my body wasn’t getting nutrition, it turned inwards and started breaking down any protein it could find. My heart was the main concern.

Recovery was slow and painful, but thanks to some very patient friends, family members and doctors (and a Mushroom-Sporing instructor – fodder for another story perhaps) I was finally given the green light to gently start to move again.

No matter how strenuous a pose or vinyasa flow sequence might feel, your heart never has to work harder that it would at a brisk walk… and I did try!

When I first started practicing it was all about working hard. The relaxation was just something I had to get through before I could march home again.

Over time this has softened and I’ve seen the importance of the breath work (pranayama) and relaxation. But I think it’s something that you have to experience for yourself.

I do up to 10 hours of yoga a week, but it’s not the physical movement that has increased my confidence, quietened my anxiety and improved my sleep, it’s the relaxation, the pranayama and making connections with my new-found family of students and fellow teachers.