I have been teaching yoga now for nearly a decade but rarely stopped to think about why I was doing it.
Movement invigorates me and I consider myself lucky that I am able to earn money from something I love. However, when we start earning from a passion, that passion can fade a little with the associated administration involved.
I have recently been reflecting on why I began teaching in the first place (thanks to a brilliant webinar for yoga teachers from Lucy Edge, an ex ad agency director turned yoga advocate). She encouraged us to work on our 'brand stand' (a mission statement if you like which encompasses our style of teaching and our aims as a business). She asked questions such as; 'what change do you want to make?', 'why is it important to you?' and 'what gets your goat?'.
I've never bothered with a business plan in the past, it didn't seem necessary but now, in a time of reflection, I thought it would be good to consider who I am and how I teach so that I might connect with my tribe (and make it easier for students seeking a teacher to know what I am about and whether I might be the right fit for them).
So here's my little Q&A:
What change do you want to make?
I want to enable my students to keep moving well and to remain fit and healthy as they get older.
I want to encourage people to have fun with yoga so I aim to create a playful space within my classes where my students can feel relaxed and part of an encouraging, positive community, able to speak out and ask questions (or heckle me if they wish, I love being heckled!)
I also believe in balance and I want to enable those who may be stressed and burnt out to find ways to cultivate calm, to have the tools with which to nurture themselves and to feel better in body and mind.
I want to help people change their mindset about health and wellness, not to be something they think about when they get ill but to work more preventatively, to make it an important part of their lives and to make it an enjoyable one.
Why is it important to you?
I have been interested in health and wellness for as long as I can remember (my dad said I should have studied medicine but I was rubbish at biology in school and I don’t fancy handling other people's bodily fluids!).
However, if I or a loved one is diagnosed with a condition I will find out all I can about it, purely out of an interest in body maintenance so I'll go off and read the scientific papers (not forums - never do that, you'll only feel worse!).
A logical and independent person, I think that if I am aware of and understand something going awry in my body then maybe I can be part of the solution without needing others to 'fix me' (of course, this does depend on the problem as to whether a 'self-fix' is achievable!).
I firmly believe that we all need to take responsibility for our own health and wellbeing. I'm far from perfect (I know I eat too much sugar) but I do try to eat well, get enough sleep, keep moving and I don't smoke or take drugs.
Please don't think I am preaching to you what you should do (I'm very much a 'live and let live' person) but I think many of us already know where we might be doing something that adversely affects our health; be it to excess (alcohol, chocolate, caffeine [insert your naughty list here]) or not enough (daily vegetables - I remember reading somewhere that we should be aiming for 10 a day but in the UK it's believed 5 is a more achievable target!).
I think that yoga and movement in general however can actually cultivate that desire to improve your health. When we start doing something that makes us feel good we want more of it and that self-care can then start to trickle into other areas of our lives, such as diet, etc.
If I can make the experience of yoga and movement fun then I hope that will encourage people to want to do more and to stick with it (and life is so much better when we can have a good laugh too).
Why you though? What can you offer?
I believe I can contribute a safe and fun space to be playful with movement and to gently encourage us all to take ownership of our wellbeing. I have a thirst for knowledge, to learn, not just about movement but anything that can make us feel better in ourselves and I like to share this knowledge with others so they can benefit.
This is probably where the crystals come in too. As well as the logical science side of me, I'm very open to alternative therapies. My older brother studied geology so I was fascinated with his crystal and rock cabinet growing up and now I love to make jewellery out of them. Whether they actually have the power to heal I don't know but I think they can work on a subliminal or energetic level and they're worth a try right? Plus the look so PRETTY!.
What gets your goat?
There's nothing wrong with serious yoga (and I do take my yoga seriously) but I think there can be a lot of elitism and competition in the yoga world. Social media has so many positive points but it can also convey a negative image, bombarding us with polished pictures of yogis with model like proportions contorting themselves into positions (with just a dash of "look at me, aren't I amaaaazing") that are just unattainable for many of us. Or those who preach that 'their style of yoga is waaaay better than others and everyone else's teaching is wrong'. I exaggerate here but I do want people to discover for themselves what works best for them (as I said before: 'live and let live').
That's not to say that those crazy Instagram poses aren't achievable without a lot of hard work and dedication (and probably months, if not years of practice) but to the beginner it can be completely off-putting or create this urgency to push into something we're not ready for because we think that if we can't do it then it surely must mean we're not good enough. (note - you ARE good enough, you don't need that crazy pose in your life to feel better!).
In my decade of practising yoga I have changed so much from, as a nervous beginner, doggedly sticking to poses I was taught and teaching them exactly how I'd been instructed to, to in latter years, questioning poses as to why they are of benefit in the first place and how I might practice them better.
I have looked to others in the movement world and spoken to physiotherapists and other specialists (during discussions about my hypermobility spectrum disorder, but that's a whole other story!) and brought in the things I've learned and adapted the way I do things. I now consider more what the costs and benefits of a pose are so have narrowed down my menu a little and included some movements that aren't yoga based but can enhance our practice.
As such, there are poses I just don't teach in my classes now and I don't feel bad about that. Instead it is far more important to me to feel good in the body I have, to still challenge it but in a way that will make me fit, healthy and strong rather than to push into injury for the sake of an aesthetic or tradition.
Describe yourself in three words;
Knowledgable, upbeat and fun
Who are your tribe?
If I look at my students, they really do range in ages and abilities but they tend to have the same viewpoint as me in that they just want to feel good and healthy in their bodies and to have fun in class.
So if you want to learn how to do a flying pigeon that effortlessly floats into chaturanga then I'm afraid I'll let you down there (there are other kick-ass teachers out there for that and I can certainly put you in touch). But I can provide you a laugh (usually at my ineptitude to remember whether I was doing the left or right side), a series of movements that'll incorporate a balance of strength and flexibility and a listening ear when you need one.
A final word:
As part of this whole webinar exercise I did a little quiz to find my archetype (a concept created by Swiss psychologist Carl Jung), which turned out to be the 'Jester'. The Jester's core desire is to 'live in the moment with full enjoyment'. To me, the best way to live in the moment is to always be learning, to laugh often and to feel well so that's my yogic aim.
(If you want to find your archetype then you can complete the short quiz at Psychologist World)
Thank you for reading what turned out to be a bit of an epic blog but hopefully it gave you an insight into who I am and why I do it (and why I hope you do it with me!).