You were wild once, don't let them tame you
I discovered yoga when I was looking for a way out of a cycle of illness that I had been in or over 10 years, I suffer from a chronic illness called Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (M.E.), and have done since my mid-teens. When bad this illness leaves me bed bound and unable to walk, talk properly or care for myself, and throughout my twenties I was in a cycle of flare ups followed by OK spells and then flare ups once more.
To be honest I had generally had the attitude of non-acceptance to this illness and the thoughts of if I ignore it I will beat it, covering up my subtle symptoms with a very unhealthy diet, lots of caffeine and sugar, and generally just waiting for the next time I couldn't function.
Even though I was suffering with this I still ran my own business, and lived a very busy productive life, but on the inside I was broken, my illness had started in my teens after a particularly stressful time when I was severely bullied, due to the bullying I suffered from mental illness and anorexia, leaving me depleted and chronically stressed. This level of stress on body and mind is what I think enabled the M.E to take hold and after a bout of encephalitis, life would never be the same again.
But it wasn't until my late 20's that I decided enough was enough sand I needed to face up to what was happening and try and help myself rather than blaming external factors for this constant cycle.
I knew that any illness is inflamed when we are stressed so that was what I decided to focus on, reducing my stress or more precisely increasing my ability to deal with stress, and I'd heard yoga was good at that.
To say I was hooked was an understatement, after the first hour of doing a pretty strong yoga class I realised for the first time ever my mind had actually stopped, I wasn't thinking about work, or life all I had focused on in that hour was where I needed to place my limbs and how the hell I could do that and breathe at the same time! By the time shavasana came I was asleep but my body felt alive.
I practised yoga daily using it as a medicine and committing to the idea that it may help. Slowly I found my diet started to change, I no longer wanted to eat sugar filled food and was becoming much more aware of how food made me feel, I became aware of how certain situations exaggerated my illness and I also became aware of how I could use my yoga breathing to help me stay calm, yoga slowly started to move off the matt and into my life and my illness became more manageable. (Yoga hasn't cured me, but it's given me awareness and strength to be able to live happily with it)
After a few years of daily practice I decided I wanted to delve deeper into how yoga was helping me, and learn more of how I could help myself even more. So I headed to Eastbourne to train with Wenche Beard and completed my Yoga Teacher Training.
My initial experience of yoga was with Ashtanga Yoga, a practice that is known to be strong. In this practice you repeat the same routine daily adding postures as you master the previous. This regimented practice played brilliantly to my type A driven personality but it also kept me in that very masculine state. And then I booked to go on a yoga retreat with a teacher called Wenche, her practice seemed strong but different to what I was used to and so I travelled to Surrey to find out.
Wenches practice blew everything I understood about yoga out of the water and showed me you could be strong and feminine. She used music to add another dimension to the practice, we moved in a fluid way and laughed, cried, sweated and rested together. . From that Pont on I knew this was how I wanted to practice yoga, but more importantly I felt more connected to myself than I ever had done in my adult life.
I loved to dance, I always have, I used to attend ballet and when I was able to I'd dance the night away in the local clubs,and to practice yoga with music to me brought the old love of dance to my mat in a safe, fun way.
What I teach
For those that have been with me through this journey you will know that over the years of teaching my practice has changed, and this is because I don't follow a structure or rule based practice, instead I teach from the heart, I teach what I've learnt and share this with you.
The type of yoga that I love is a flow based yoga, this stems from my love of dance, and so my sessions are a flow of constant movement aimed at unlocking the tightness's held within the body and bringing our awareness back towards ourselves. I deeply believe we hand our trust of our own knowledge away to others and loose the connection to what works for us, and my classes are aimed at teaching you to trust yourself once more. This comes from being constantly told how I should feel in my illness, what should work, and how what I was feeling was wrong as it didn't follow the guidelines that the NHS provides. It also stems from being told when I was being bullied that I was just being too sensitive and I should just let what was being said and done to me go, even though I knew fundamentally what was happening was wrong.
So my yoga is not just about body movement its about mental strength and building our own awareness of ourselves and learning ways to cope and help in our lives off the mat.
Each class is different, each flow is different, and I place no pressure on you to be in a certain position or look a certain way, after years of rocking up to a yoga class to find my body was too exhausted to join in; and all I needed that day was deep rest, I totally understand the feeling of not being able to do what others are doing, I also get the feeling of needing to "keep up" when my body was screaming no. So I actively encourage you to rest when your body says, to adjust your posture when your body tells you this isn't right for you and most of to listen inwards and trust what its telling you.
This makes my classes suitable for all, as you can make the flow your own.
Some of my classes are for just women, it took me a long time to be brave enough to do this. But it was something that I had been feeling I wanted to offer for a while, when I fell pregnant it felt the right time to do this. I knew the next chapter was going to be deeply feminine and craved that space of other women. Through building this space in the week to be surrounded by women of all stages of life, to talk openly and freely about how we are feeling, to not be ashamed of belly's poking above our yoga pants, or boobs leaking milk! To talk about our life stories from struggles in falling pregnant, to never being able to have a baby, to birth stories and death, a space for women to be real. These weekly classes have become much more than just a movement class, they have become a deep space of connection.