In 2012, a year after completing my first diploma as a yoga teacher in India, I wrote my story so far for the British publication Yoga & Health Magazine. Unfortunately the magazine no longer exists and my story has changed beyond belief since this was published seven years ago.
It’s a story I’m now longing to update. Perhaps we know each other, in which case you’ll probably be able to fill in a few gaps. Or perhaps you’re a new visitor, curious about yoga, what and how I teach.
I now have two young children, a home in need of renovation and a growing business that – thanks to you! – has survived maternity leave twice and two additional years of parental leave. But these words below will give you a small insight into my past and maybe some clues as to my future. Enjoy!
As I sit at my makeshift writing desk, shielded from the glare of the alpine sun, my thoughts bounce between the past and the future. How did I come to be here? And where am I going? The answer, which appears more and more in my life, is: yoga.
It’s the discipline of yoga that’s given me the gentle persistence to keep inching towards my dreams, no matter how unrealistic they may seem to others. And it’s the philosophy of yoga that’s given me the courage to look deep into myself, to stop looking everywhere but inside for the answers I’ve so desperately sought.
My journey with yoga started as a university student. I spent most of my first class lying on my back, feeling trapped. I thought the class was a waste of my very precious time, distracting me from assignments, my part-time job and additional commitments. I simply had too much on to lose an hour to these slow monotonous movements. I quit class soon after, feeling that yoga wasn’t what I needed in my life, little knowing how wrong I was.
After graduating I flirted with asana classes once again. A little ‘Ashtanga’ here, a ‘Hatha’ class there. It wasn’t until I tried an early morning weekday class at my local gym that I got my first taste of the true benefits of the practice. Until then I’d been interested in maintaining my fitness and getting out of the office at lunchtime, but in that particular class we started some gentle Pranayama, the breathing exercises that yoga considers the key to energising the body and calming the mind.
After a few rounds of ‘alternate nostril breathing’ I couldn’t believe the difference in my stress levels. I floated out of class and felt high for the rest of the day, focussed but detached, blissfully serene. I continued going to classes, working up to a daily personal practice that worked wonders for my wonky spine, doing-mania and growing disillusionment with life at my desk in London. Yoga had shown me that living a more alternative lifestyle could be my reality and in 2005 I quit my career in finance and journalism, moving to the French alpes.
With limited French and no yoga teachers in the ski resorts, I travelled with my mat and tried to maintain my personal practice. In the middle of one particularly stressful winter – it’s not all sun and skiing when you live in resort fulltime! – I booked myself onto a yoga retreat in Turkey, with an internationally recognised Iyengar teacher. I didn’t know anything about the style but was curious and desperate to have a treat waiting for me when work finished in May.
The two weeks were intense as most of the other students were already teachers, intent on absorbing the wisdom of our experienced teacher. Physical challenges were addressed and overcome, I felt truly connected for the first time; my love for the practice swelled.
I returned to my life in the mountains calmer, thinner, more flexible but quickly replaced the discipline of the retreat with parties and an on/off attitude to almost every area of my life. The spaces that yoga had opened-up in me I quickly filled with life’s pains and pleasures in my constant search for fulfillment. I was looking outwards rather than inwards for my answers. I was unhappy; but I didn’t want to admit it.
This continued until I met my soon-to-be husband. A spiritual seeker who stood out against the crowd of mountain revelers, he is wise, sober, and not afraid to ask the big questions. Inspired I ended my crazy relationship with alcohol, cigarettes and drugs. We talked, we cried, we spent time together and apart but never have we felt anything other than the committed to our path towards self-examination and inner peace. In this sympathetic setting my personal practice blossomed; I found a teacher, I started reading about the philosophies of yoga and following a more yogic lifestyle. Ayurveda became a passion, as I investigated the source of my intense skin condition, irregular digestion and constant nightmares.
I’d long yearned to be surrounded by yogis, and in 2011 I had the opportunity to travel to India and further my understanding of yoga. I spent six weeks in Rishikesh on a Yoga Alliance certified 200-hour Teacher Training Course at Rishikesh Yog Peeth. It’s no exaggeration that those six weeks changed my life and I started teaching on my return to the Alpes. For most of my students it was their first experience of yoga, and it was my first experience teaching in French. Inspired and aware of my need to continue my education I decided to move to another part of France, where life is more balanced and there are more opportunities to both teach and study.
My dream? To create a yoga homestead. A self-sufficient, eco-friendly property to host yoga classes and retreats. To develop my personal practice and teaching skills, to absorb the philosophies of yoga that make it so much more than a physical routine. And maybe, to do another TTC, this time in French.