I'm now moving into my seventh year of nomadic living and eighth year of teaching yoga and I've picked up a few tips along the way! I've been the chick who's carted a 3kg Liforme mat around Asia, gone to a 'vinyasa' yoga class only to discover I'm the only solo person in a couples only tantra workshop, I've been hit on mid handstand by sweaty guys with man buns and ripped the entire crotch of my yoga pants mid teaching. It's safe to say I've seen some questionable things but there is nothing more awesome than unrolling your mat in a beautiful tropical country. Whether you're on retreat with me this year or hopping off to a sunny destination for a week of R&R I've got you covered ...Invest in a Foldable Mat Alright back to the Liforme admission. Unless you are Kino McGregor you don't need a 'professional' yoga mat whilst travelling. Don't get me wrong, I love my sacred rectangular piece of rubber as much as the next yogi but when it comes to travelling, there is nothing worse than carting a heavy mat around, especially if you aren't staying put the whole time. Luckily there are now lots of really awesome travel yoga mats that fold meaning you can pack them into any shape of hand luggage. Try the travel ranges by Liforme, Jade and Lululemon for really grippy versions (essential for sweaty conditions) and as little as 1kg in weightSupport Local Studios Get out there and take some classes in local yoga studios. Seek out locally run places and try our some differrent styles of yoga. You may find a brand new style you love and you'll be contributing your own little bit of awesome by giving back to the community.Tiger Balm For the Win An essential piece of kit, I absolutely swear by tiger balm to soothe aching muscles (read: chaturanga arms). Disclaimer: do not stick your finger anywhere near your eye after using! This little pot of awesome is always in my yoga bag and I love using it on students in savasana too. If you want to amp up your natural skincare game there are lots of DIY recipes you can find online. I started making my own last year and have got the recipe pretty fine tuned! Drop me a comment on Instagram if you'd like the recipe and I'll include it in next month's newsletter. The Power of Journalling If there is one thing you take on a yoga retreat make it this, and while you're at it, choose a ridiculously beautiful one with one of those slinky pens that you love to write with. Then simply sit down for half an hour every day and write ... whether it's gratitude journalling, reflections on the day or just random brain splurging, journalling is a game changerTreat Your Yoga Pants like Underwear! Write this down in your yoga journal... I.WILL.NOT.MACHINE.WASH.MY.YOGA.PANTS Unless your yoga pants are made of cotton (and even then keep it gentle), hand wash only ladies! Stretchy materials like Lycra, Spandex, recycled plastic bottles, twice blessed lungis from the banks of the River Ganges, do not do well with super hot washes. My tip? Post practice, peel those badboys off as soon as you can, handwash with lukewarm water and gentle eco handwash and air dry. You don't really want horrible bleachy chemicals near your lady parts anyway do you? Ditch the Plastic Unless you've been living under a rock for the past 5 years you'll be aware of the massive impact plastic usage causes. Luckly there are now many beautiful, eco friendly water bottles with cheesy yoga puns that will catapult you into the elite club of superyogis ... only kidding ... but you will be doing a lot to save the environment. And while you're at it, say 'no' to plastic straws and I'll love you forever.Balcony Space is Gold The first thing I ask when booking a hotel room, apartment, villa etc. Does it have a shaded balcony space big enough for a yoga mat. No. I'm not joking.Give Something Back In my opinion, any yoga studio worth going to will be organising regular events to give back to the community. Whether that's a beach clean or a charity yoga event like 'Yoga Stops Traffick' (we did this in this year's Goa retreat to raise money for human trafficking). Charity / community events are a great way to meet other people in the community and give something back to the country you're travelling in. They should be an essential part of your yoga journey. With love always, Jenn
For those inevitable times in life when something unexpected happens, when we're challenged in the most profound of ways or even if we're just feeling a little unsettled we can allow the practice of yoga to do what it's really designed for ... to connect us to what is true, and move through challenges with grace. I am a self confessed (recovering) control freak, and I have always struggled a bit with change. For the past 6 years I have chosen the life of a travelling yogi... one that is transient, ever changing and yep ... at times, pretty unstable. I think on a subconscious level I chose this path for a reason because it's the one that teaches me the most. It's equal measures calming and chaotic, beautiful and raw, complex and oh so simple and it requires me to be vulnerable every single day. The one constant in my life through all of the changes and challenges has been my yoga practice and here I am after 8 years on the mat finally understanding that for me ... it's a practice of coming home.When it's time to stop searching ... I think inherently as humans, we all crave stability. Whether that's with our families, our jobs or where we live, we are on a constant search to make things more comfortable. But instead of waiting for things to improve, the practice of yoga teaches us to make the most of what life has given us. On the mat, we understand that despite any physical limitations or injury we can still have a beautiful mindful practice. We dont have to wait until we're more flexible, more strong. Yoga teaches us to be grateful for THIS body, THIS life, THESE circumstances by propelling us into the present moment. And start growing ... Then something awesome begins happening. We start to thank adversity because we now see it as an incredible opportunity for growth and learning ... because we've been here before, haven't we? Every time a yoga posture feels difficult or we have to navigate through an injury. When we find ourselves in a strong yin practice that bursts through held in emotions and we're crying into our mat, we open ourselves up to FEELING! And its through all of these feels that we get to learn about our true selves ... and inevitably, if we act on what we find, that leads to growth.It's time to start being brave ... Yoga connects us to who we really are. Not wife, mother, sister, boyfriend, brother ... not the labels, but what's underneath all that. Over time the practice answers the most pondered question of all time - 'Who am I?'. When we truly begin to know ourselves we connect to what matters most to us, we identify our basic needs and then we get a little bit brave an open up to the possibility of asking for those things. The vulnerability we practice on the mat every time we come to yoga allows us open ourselves up off the mat too and forge better relationships, more congruent lives ... lives with true purpose.Because we know we are exactly where are supposed to be There is beautiful line in my chakra book that says - "the gift of adversity is never given without the ability to overcome it". Ultimately what this practice has given me is the faith that life doesn't happen to you, it happens FOR you. The universe isn't trying to trip you up. All its asking is that you open up your eyes and see the opportunity. Maybe thats a new career, the end of something stagnant to make space for something amazingly new, an opportunity to put yourself out there are share from the bottom of your heart how you feel. Know this ... everything is this amazing crazy life is a gift. Once you start to see that the entire world opens up to you.
1) Yoga still kicks our asses No matter what it may look like, we don't "magically float into arm balances". Sure it gets easier the stronger you get but it takes effort, not levitation! Our serene 'yoga smile' on the way up? Cunningly designed to coax you guys into giving it a go ... and loving it when you do! 2) We get distracted in meditation too You know that feeling after a lovely long meditation when you feel its time to close your practice? You surreptitiously open one eye to look at the clock and yep, there it is ... a grand super-yogi total of ... wait for it ... 2 minutes and 37 seconds. Whaaaaaaaa? 3) We listen to rock music, not Enya Contrary to popular belief we do not sit in the lotus pose listening to Indian tabla music all day. My current yoga playlist includes Lana Del Rey, Cold Play, Rhianna, Led Zeppelin and yep ... sometimes even a bit of Aerosmith. Its all about balance right?4) Our wardrobe does not consist of the latest Lululemon kit Mine is made up of £1 cotton yoga pants picked up at market stalls in Thailand (on all of which, I have split the crotch and re-sewn them at least 5 times) men's vests (top tip to stop armpit chafing) and a yoga mat that has been clawed to death by my boyfriend's cat. 5) We frickin' love it when you finally nail 'that pose' We get so excited we actually want to 'high-five' you right there in the middle of class and do a lap of honour round the studio. Oh wait ... sometimes we really do!6) You don't need to 'sneak off' for an apres-class vino "Mandy, I'll meet you in the pub in 10, the table out the back, I'll be wearing the huge sunglasses and baseball cap". We can see you ... not because of some strange yogi superpower. We're at the bar ordering a glass of red.7) We miss being a beginner
Ahhhhh ... that feeling when you first touch your own toes, balance on one leg for a full 5 breaths, get into headstand without leaning your feet on the wall. They're all game changers, moments of sheer and utter joy ... and then they're gone. You always remember your 'first'. Enjoy the journey ... the destination will be here before you know it. With love, Jenn xxx
- Brene Brown A child in an unsafe home, an elderly person living alone, someone at risk of hurting themselves, a patient taken advantage of by their carer ... all examples of what are commonly deemed 'vulnerable' people. In our society, the word 'vulnerable' is often used to describe people who are at risk. It's interesting to consider how this has affected our view of vulnerability. Ask someone what the word means and they will often cite things such as 'weakness', 'neediness' and 'insecurity'. A quick google search gives the definition as "a person who is easily hurt or attacked" In yoga we are constantly encouraging our students to surrender, to be vulnerable and open to the practice. We talk about 'trusting in the process' and approaching our yoga without expectations. So how can vulnerability serve us? And how can we cultivate it? In her incredible TED talk, Brene Brown says "In order to experience a connection (with others), we have to allow ourselves to be seen, really seen". It is only by knowing our insecurities, and the things that frighten us that we can truly know empathy. Until we understand the things that make us feel vulnerable, we cannot have compassion for others. Until we have touched the centre of our own vulnerability we invariably remain closed through fear. I find it amazing that vulnerability is often seen as a sign of weakness when it takes an incredible amount of strength to bare our souls. To be vulnerable is to give ourselves wholeheartedly without the promise of guarantees, to trust in the path, to go forth even when we are afraid, to open ourselves to the possibility of failure, and a life without perfection. How incredibly brave it is to face our fears of rejection, to strip down our protective barriers and lay it all out there. Speaking personally, allowing myself to be vulnerable is something that has always been incredibly hard for me. I've always been the strong one, the independent one, the organiser and largely the 'trouser-wearer' meaning I've had a tendency to put on a tough exterior. I see it manifest in my yoga practice. Back-bending has always been hard for me (more on that later) ... the vulnerability of exposing the heart, the unfurling of the protective armour of the spine and rib cage. It comes from a place of fear... fear of the unknown, fear of being judged. The process of travelling continues to be instrumental in my quest for vulnerability. Over the last three years I have surrendered myself to a life without guarantees - a fixed home, stable income and a consistent community are things I have learned to live without. I am increasingly allowing myself to stop trying to control and predict the future, to be willing to invest wholeheartedly in relationships, to commit myself to this process even though there are no guarantees, to say 'I love you' and 'I'm sorry', ' and sometimes 'no, today I'm not ok'. To equate vulnerability with openness, not weakness. To embrace being fully present and receptive to the world without numbing myself through fear. So let's begin to cultivate the strength to be vulnerable ... Surrender to your yoga practice, let go of your expectations. Say 'I love you first' 'Feel' without censorship. Cry, laugh with abandon, feel joyous, feel shitty - it's all part of the human experience. Commit yourself to the things you love without attaching to the outcome And above all ... understand that you are always enough xxx
So you’ve finally made it to Christmas week. The presents are wrapped, the turkey on order, cards sent out to everyone from your third cousin twice removed to the plumber. The tree is decorated, the kids nativity play done, arrangements made for relatives, you even survived the office xmas party (and didn’t inadvertently flash/snog/cry all over anyone inappropriate). Phew. Now all you have to do is cook Christmas dinner for 8 people, oh and don’t forget Boxing day buffet. Pause … stop … and breathe.
So, my friend, level with me here (its ok no-one’s listening) … how are you feeling? Full of festive joy and cheer? Or pretty bloody shattered actually, a bit emotional, and in need of a well deserved break.
Take a second to ponder this question … are you taking care of yourself? Are you investing in yourself in the way you invest time in your family, your loved ones, your career, your responsibilities?
We’ve all heard the phrase “you cannot love another until you love yourself”. Taking time to relax, renew and connect to ourselves means our lives seem fuller, somehow richer. Our interactions with others become calmer and kinder. We become more understanding and more ‘authentic’ when we know our true selves.
We’re all aware that yoga is a spiritual practice, but the truth is that in a 60 minute studio class, we teachers simply don’t have the time to go deep into philosophy, to help you unpick what this ‘yoga’ really is … a truly and undeniably life-changing tool.
Speaking for myself, what I really want is to instil in you is the power that yoga has for self-transformation … not only of your physical body but the profound effect it has on the mind, the emotions, the ‘self’. Sure I love teaching creative vinyasa flow sequences, playing with arm balances with you, seeing your flexibility and strength improve week after week … but what I really want to share with you is the ‘magic’.
The biggest gift for me is when you guys ‘get it’. When that little lightbulb goes off and you see the bigger picture. That its not about handstands and lululemon pants, its that moment when you stop beating yourself up, you let down your guard, you become ok with not getting it perfect, and you realise that you are ALWAYS enough.
I could spend hours banging on about how, on a yoga retreat, you’ll take inspiring classes, spend your afternoons relaxing on a beautiful beach, get awesome at headstands, eat great food, meet like-minded people … (all of these things are true by the way!) but what you’ll LEAVE with will be the magic, the understanding of how to harness this amazing tool we call ‘yoga’.
So this year I won’t be theming classes on backbends or hip openers. I’ll be using our yoga practice to get all ‘Paul Daniels’ on your ass (cheesy reference to the ‘magic’)
Our themes will be gratitude, self acceptance, risk taking, devotion, community, surrender. Each class will be a 2 hour journey through each theme incorporating mindfulness, vinyasa flow, great music, poetry and philosophy. We will explore each theme through the body and then blow the doors off as we connect back to philosophy so you understand why we do what we do on the mat and how to take this into your life when you’re off it. You’ll begin to understand that every time we step on the mat we’re working towards self-acceptance, when we surrender into a pose we relinquish control, when we attempt to balance on our arms, we develop strength of character, determination, tenacity and when we keep going, we show devotion.
Same awesome yoga flows, same beautiful playlists but now we connect it back to the source … we connect it back to you.
For more information on my upcoming retreat in Goa go to the Retreat Page
"Hindsight is always twenty-twenty" - Billy Wilder
1) You'll never perfect any yoga posture Yep thats right,. you've been trying for months to get your fingertips to the floor in forward fold and then the day it finally happens, your teacher tells you ... 'now put your hands flat'. When that happens its time to step on your hands, then touch your nose to your knees, then wrap your arms behind your legs etc etc! For every yoga posture you can bet your ass-ana that some creative yogi has come up with a 'progression'. The moral of the story? There is no end point, and while its great to have goals and something to work towards, the key really is to fall in love with the practice (the process) rather than the achievement of the posture (the perceived end point). We don't get to decide the day we float up into crow pose but we can decide to show up day after day on our mats and put the work in. And what a metaphor for life... we can never control the outcome but what we can control is our efforts. 2) You don't need to be flexible to start yoga Yoga teachers ... how any times have we heard this one? "I'd be rubbish at yoga because I'm not flexible". Right ... and what do you think we go to yoga for? Flexibility doesn't just refer to bending yourself into pretzel like positions, flexibility is also an attitude and a state of mind and statements like this demonstrate inflexibility. I can't, I won't etc. Whichever way you look at it, lack of bodily flexibility isn't a reason not to try yoga. On the one hand, now that we're not chasing the achievement of a posture, it doesn't matter if your hands never touch the floor in that forward fold. On the other hand, if you are tight, regular yoga practice will undoubtably improve this. The only inflexibility that WILL impact your practice is the inflexibility of your mind. Worth a thought! 3) You will cry in the middle of practice I distinctly remember when this first happened and it shocked the hell out of me! It wasn't during a yin class or in the middle of a poignant song in savasana, it was slap bang in the middle of 10 sun salutations ... at the start of Ashtanga practice. WFT?? No-one told me this happens so I spent the next 90 minutes trying to hide my tears, dripping snot onto my mat and soaking my sports bra. Yoga makes you emotional ... it's supposed to ... and it's nothing to be embarrassed about. One of the biggest teachings of yoga is to let go of that which no longer serves us and this release often comes in the form of emotions. It's a beautiful thing, go with it, and know that we are here to support you. 4) You will start caring more about nature The ultimate state of yoga is oneness, where you begin to understand your connection to all living things. You get glimpses of it when you listen to the sounds of nature during meditation and when your breath seems to synchronise with everyone elses during savasana. This feeling of being 'at one' with all that is eventually spills over into your daily life. You're probably gonna start caring more about the environment which could mean saying no to plastic bottles, straws and packaging, eating less meat or making more conscious choices about the animal products you consume and reducing your carbon footprint as best you can. 5) Yoga chicks are not as intimidating as they look With their shiny, swingy ponytails, super tight pants, latest Lululemon yoga bras and abs for days, yoga chicks can look a bit like the crew of 'Mean Girls'. Please try to leave your judgments at the door. There are unfortunately some people in the yoga world who judge others on how they look. Just because these girls are wearing tight workout clothes and have make-up on does not make them narcissists, likewise if they choose to post pictures of themselves doing handstands on Instagram... and even if they are, that's their right to express themselves as they wish, right? Take a minute to speak to people at your yoga studio and I bet you'll find they're not intimidating at all. Yoga is about acceptance and non-judgment ... practice it, and if that chick is indeed a yogi, she'll respond to you in the same way :) 6) You don't need fancy $100 Lululemon pants ... or a Lifeforme yoga mat Listen, I love a pair of fancy yoga pants as much as the next girl but if you're just starting out, please don't feel you need to go spending truck loads of cash on the latest performance yoga gear. Honestly all you need to start out is a couple of pairs of stretchy pants and a few tank tops. Most studios supply all the equipment you need. If and when you decide to develop a home practice, then its time to get a good quality yoga mat and maybe a yoga block and strap. 7) If you're a beginner, don't hang out right at the back of the class You've come to a class to learn right? I know it's scary to go at the front but honestly, if you're right at the back you wont be able to see the teacher and your chances of getting any hands on assists are pretty minimal, especially if you're in a class of 40 plus students. Plus, if you're in one of my classes, we usually change directions at some point so the back row becomes the front row ... sneaky! Here's the compromise, go somewhere in the middle. Now you can clearly see the teacher's mat and we can get our hands on you. Also which ever way you're facing, you now have someone in front of you to copy if needed ... you're welcome ;) 8) People will fart in class ...and you will be dying to laugh. Personally, when it happens in my classes I encourage a good giggle. Yoga gets things moving after all! Top tip, try not to eat anything heavy a couple of hours before your class. That bean chilli won't seem like such a good idea when you find out your teacher has planned 90 minutes of twists and core! 9) You will start wearing 'stretchy stuff' ... all the time Putting on that tailored office suit after your lunchtime yoga class is going to start feeling like wearing a strait jacket. Watch as every item of clothing you own starts to have a higher lycra content. Are you starting to wear your yoga pants on days when you aren't going to class? (good). Have you worn them on a night out, refusing to wiggle into a skirt you cant even walk in (very good). And when you get far down the rabbit hole like me, you'll only own 'stretchy stuff', prefer to sit cross legged on the floor to eat and will refuse to wear shoes. If this is you ... congratulations and welcome to the weird club of yoga! 10) You might not love yoga at first Some of you know this already but I literally hated yoga when I first started and I continued to struggle with it for the first year. I was (and still sometimes am) a perfectionist. I used to beat myself up when I couldn't 'do' the asanas. The pattern was on repeat ... I would get frustrated, then push myself, then injure myself, then feel sorry for myself, then give up. It was in these phases on giving up and not practicing that I realised how much better I felt when I was doing yoga and so the gaps got less and less. As my body slowly started opening up so did my outlook on life and I started to see how I was becoming calmer, nicer to be around and generally more 'centred'. For me, it wasn't until I realised what was happening off the mat that I started to connect to what I was doing on the mat. It took me a year ... be patient, persevere and it will come :) With love always,
"There is no passion to be found in settling for a life that is less than one you are capable of living"
- Nelson Mandela
So here I am, 35 next month and my life is a million miles away from where I thought it would be. I am currently sitting on my childhood bed in my pants on a Thursday morning writing this blog. I am a nomad and a bit of a hippy. I am unmarried, unabashed and unattached. I don't own a car, or live in a house, and my most constant companion is a pink suitcase (it took me 3 years to upgrade from the backpack).
As we get older, many of us naturally feel the need to create some stability in our lives. Traditionally this means 'settling down', getting married, buying a house, having kids, committing to a career path, but what if these things aren't present, aren't imminent or indeed ... what if they are not wanted? Does this mean we are destined to feel UN-settled? In a society that defines what should happen at each stage of our lives, it's easy to feel the pressure ... especially as a women ... especially at 35 ;)
Let's take a quick look at the dictionary definition of 'settling down' shall we ...
to become calm, quiet, or orderly
to begin a stable, orderly, and often conventional way of life
to begin doing something in a diligent and orderly way
Nowhere in this definition does it mention houses, men or children ... hmmm, interesting. In fact when I think about my yoga journey over the past 5 years of travelling full time and definitely not 'settling down', I've actually been ... wait ... settling down?! Huh? I have become more calm, more at peace (although I'm still far from quiet as you guys know), my career is stable and my business affairs are well organised. And I'm definitely 'doing something in a diligent and orderly way' - my yoga! You see I’ve come to understand this as ‘settling in’. Accepting myself and being at peace with where I am right now rather, than chasing the life that society expects of us.
Don’t get me wrong, a big part of me yearns for the marriage, the nice house (read: villa for running retreats), and to put down roots so to speak, but I have begun to unpick this … what is it that I really want and what do these ‘things’ represent?
Enter the humble gratitude journal, a technique I learned on my second teacher training with the incredible Julie Martin and a practice that has stayed with me over the years. It is a practice of asking the universe for what you want …what you REALLY want.
Consider this; if you ask a bunch of people 'what do you want?" many of them will say they want to win the lottery, which in its purest form means owning lots of pieces of paper called ‘money’. Is it really physical ‘money’ that you desire or is it what that money represents? Perhaps freedom, stability, security, abundance etc are what you desire.
Now lets unpick that. Say you’ve ascertained that you want to attract freedom. Do you really need to win the lottery to experience that? What if you reassessed your relationships, travelled more, changed up your daily routine? What if you took a moment and realised that that fact you can even access the internet to read this blog in the comfort of your own home, with food in your belly, means you are more free than the majority of people across the globe. Does that make you feel grateful? Does that realisation make you feel free? Shifting our perspective and focusing on the things we can control of our lives is surely preferable to waiting for that 1 in 175 million (yes I Googled it) lottery win. You’re essentially waiting for an external ‘miracle’ beyond your control before you allow your dream life to begin.
Personally, I’m beginning to realise that the stability that I associate with a relationship or a place doesn't really require either of those things. What it requires is for me to fall in love with myself, to care for myself as I would a partner, a home or a child. To be grateful for my stable family, the practice of yoga which is more ‘home’ than anything else in this world, to appreciate how bloody fortunate I am to even have the luxury of time to question how ‘stable’ my life is.
So what about instead of settling down, we settled in? Just in the way we do on a cold winters night, wrapped in warm snuggly clothes, a soothing cup of tea and a comfy sofa, with the energy of nurturing and caring for ourselves… to make time to say ‘hey, I’m doing ok and I am enough’.
When we search for fulfilment from external sources we miss an invaluable opportunity to find the things we seek within ourselves. We already have everything we need … we are already whole. This life is not about ‘things’, this life is about love and as the old adage goes ‘love starts with yourself’
“There is no man living who isn't capable of doing more than he thinks he can do" - Henry Ford
'Hello, my name is Jenn and I'm an Instagram Yogi" ... pauses for reaction Depending on where you stand, you're probably either grabbing your iPhone and doing a quick search for #thetravellingyogi or rolling your eyes, seconds away from pressing the little red 'x' at the top of your browser. Its a pretty hot topic nowadays and everybody seems to have an opinion - including me. So before you give up on me, let me take a minute to explain. Yes I post daily pictures on social media, AND I am also a full time yoga teacher and practitioner committed to bringing as many people onto their mats as possible. Enter Instagram. Celebrity yogis like Rachel Brathen (AKA Yoga Girl) have helped catapult yoga into the mainstream, inspiring millions to roll out their mats yet I often hear people (usually other yoga teachers) saying that it's not 'yoga' to take a photo of yourself doing a handstand in a bikini. Let's discuss shall we? The argument goes that yoga is about letting go of ego and not about being 'skinny' and achieving a perfect body. I couldn't agree more. Yoga is not about perfection, its about exploration. It's about developing a deep connection to and understanding of the bodies we are in. We have this incredible container of muscle and ligament, bone and breath, with infinite possibilities for movement and expression. Judge me however you like, but when my students nail something new for the first time in class, I’ll whoop and applaud. For me yoga is a joyful practice, a journey of self acceptance, gratitude and appreciation. How lucky we are to have bodies that move! My instagram account is a celebration of that movement, a homage to the journey I embark upon every day that I step on my mat. When I discover a new depth in an asana, I share it to inspire. It is no measure of my 'spirituality' whether I am in a bikini or a white robe. What I wear does not determine my worth as a yoga teacher or indeed as a person. I live and work on a beach and I dress accordingly. I am also a grown woman and have the right to dress as I wish ;) I accept that pictures of glossy advanced yoga asana can scare off potential newcomers (so can the amazing asana of the late B.K.S Iyengar, posing in just a pair of pants in the quintessential 'Light on Yoga'), but for every person who is put off, there are plenty who are inspired and if that inspiration to practice yoga comes from an image of a girl in yoga shorts doing the splits I am grateful to that girl and I will bloody well high five her! On a side note, it's interesting how the boys of Instagram can post topless yoga pictures and are applauded for their yogic prowess ... just saying. We'd be naive to think that people didn’t sometimes come to yoga to seek a fit / healthy body … if ‘inspirational’ yoga pictures bring people to my workshops and classes then great! They’ll learn the spiritual practice when I have them on the mat (captive audience!). I'm just grateful that they're there and open to learning more about this incredible lifestyle and that I have 7 full days to teach them as much as I can! Unfortunately there seems to be a lot of judgement in the yoga community these days. There are too many dogmatic practitioners vilifying fellow 'yogis' on what they eat, how often they practice, how many vipassana meditations they've done in an attempt to 'out spiritual' each other. In my opinion THIS is the quickest way to ostracise people interested in the practice, not instagram pictures of the incredible human body and its capabilities! There is no ‘wrong’ reason for becoming interested in yoga -
If you came for a banging beach bod ... I applaud you ... hop on a matIf you're recovering from an injury ... I'm with you ... roll out that matIf you want to feel stronger, more flexible ... you're in the right place ... here's a yoga matIf you want to learn how to accept yourself and live in gratitude ... welcome my friend ... I'll show you to your matIf you want to learn about divine connection and oneness ... let me guide you ... here on your yoga mat
However you feel about Instagram, beautiful yogis, just promise me one thing ... be proud of your achievements. Be proud of yourself for the days you drag yourself into class when its knee deep in snow outside. Be proud when you have breakthroughs and discover a new dimension to your practice. Be proud when you fall out of that arm balance. Be proud when you break down in tears during your yin class. You are perfect in your wholeness, in your humanness ... celebrate it, whether thats with a new pair of yoga pant, a well deserved massage, a soak in the bath or a bikini selfie on Instagram ;) No judgment here
"The capacity to learn is a gift, the ability to learn is a skill, the willingness to learn is a choice" - Brian Herbert
Arrive early and use your time ... As a yoga teacher there's nothing better than arriving to teach a class to find you guys on your mats gently warming up or lying quietly in savasana. If you get to class early, use your time to take a few cat/cows or have a roll around on your back to 'arrive' on your mat and connect to your body.
If you are late, arrive quietly ... hey we're human and sometimes we're late. No big deal. Just try not to come crashing wildly through the door flinging your bags around and knocking over the girl in tree pose :)Silence is golden ... I know you haven't seen Sarah for a week and you have sooooo much to catch up on but let it wait until after class. Take some time in silence before you start and notice how much calmer and mindful your practice isLet the teacher know about any injuries before the class starts ... not halfway through when your teacher is adjusting your broken hip in pigeon pose! Arrive early and tell us about your injury so we can modify the practice and keep an eye on you
Don't be a front row hogger ... there is a whole studio to explore. Especially if you practice in a busy studio, give up your front row spot now and then to allow someone else to come forward. Oh, and please don't arrive with 1 minute to spare and roll your mat directly in front of another student blocking their view of the teacher. Stagger your mat to one side slightly and check they can see us
Put your bags / phones / enormous shopping bags away ... honestly, you won't need your day planner, house keys, food shopping for the practice. You also don't need your phone next to you to distract you when it lights up with a text and you definitely don't need to take a pre class selfie ;) Keep the space clear so we can get round and adjust you without tripping on your handbag and falling on our face!
Ask questions at the end of class ... unless its a workshop style class, try to avoid shouting out questions. Instead raise your hand and your teacher will come and quietly speak to you. This keeps the flow of the class going. There should also always be an opportunity at the end of the class for you to ask questions.
Keep your focus on your own practice ... yep there's a girl next to you in a cropped top doing a handstand. Now try not to stare ;) I know its hard and I admit, I totally do it sometimes but try to keep your focus on your own practice. Yoga is not about making shapes, however impressive, its about deeply connecting and listening to your own body. Keep your attention on your own body and breath and then you can observe as your practice deepens over time.
Stay in class until the end ... even if you find the class is too challenging or you're tired or just plain bored, come down to childs pose or savasana and stay in class until the end. This is simple good manners towards your teacher and avoids disruption for the rest of the students. Even if you aren't physically practicing, you still learn a lot by watching and listening. Enjoy the rest and stay present. Don't skip savasana It disrupts the rest of the class and leaves you spiritually hanging. Savasana grounds the body and mind after practice. It really is the most important part of the practice. Plus, you deserve a bloody good lie down!!
Keep an attitude of gratitude Ok so you can't touch your toes in seated forward fold. I promise you the world is not going to end. Be grateful that you can walk into a yoga studio unassisted and sit on your mat when so many people don't have use of their legs. Be grateful for the incredible, capable body you already have. Be patient ... It's called a 'yoga practice' not a 'yoga perfect'
Who are you? I mean who are you 'really'? Not the wife, the Dad, the accountant, the lawyer... not the job you have or the role you play. Who are you in your core? What makes you 'you' when all the identity falls away? We each have a unique gift to give to the world, and THAT is who you are my friend. This includes all the things you perceive as good in yourself and also the things that you may deem negative. Are you able to show your whole self to the world or do you hold some things back for fear of judgment? Know this ... It's ok to be all of who you are. Its ok to be a bit of a control freak, because it means you care. And that random sense of humour you have may not be understood by some, but every time you make just one person laugh you allow them to let go and take life less seriously. We can all filter ourselves and show an avatar of what we think people want, but we deprive them of the gift of knowing the real us. The us that make us beautiful and strange and silly and 'real'. And as we let our authentic selves shine, we give other people permission to do the same. When we liberate ourselves, we liberate others and so it goes ... what we reap we sow. So maybe its time for a rebrand. An opportunity to unveil to the world the real authentic you. Just as a company launching its logo, what you present should sum up what you offer to the world. A chance for you to say 'here I am', standing proud and confident all that you are. The path of self acceptance is the greatest gift of yoga, the realisation what we are incredible individuals in the greatest gift of life.
So I will continue to do crow pose on scooters thank you very much, I will play hiphop music in yoga classes and at the same time talk about the chakra system. I will meditate, I will rock out, I will power up and I will slow down because all of this makes me who I am. Check out my rebranded retreat page 'Soul Tribe Retreats' for retreats in Goa and Ibiza in 2017. See you on the beaches of the world :)