What inspired you to become a Yoga teacher?
I had practised Yoga for about 10 years when I decided to undertake my teacher training. I tried various styles over the years and at that time, had quite a strong Astanga practice but I felt a bit ‘stuck’. I noticed that I had become quite goal-oriented with my practice and that consequently, it had become like a chore. If I didn’t get up at 6.30am and do my hour and a half on the mat, I felt like a bad person! In my quest for a new style or some inspiration, I met the wonderful Sighle McDonnell.
After observing my practice, she suggested that I apply to train as a teacher with Yoga Therapy Ireland (YTI). I told her that I had no interest in teaching and she suggested I do the training not so that I could teach but so that I could deepen my own practice and my understanding of Yoga. She knew well that as soon as I walked through the doors of YTI, I would embark on a passionate journey that would see me teaching along the way! I owe her a huge debt of gratitude for her insight and guidance.
What style do you practice?
I am always reluctant now to hang my hat on any ‘style’. Having tried numerous forms of Yoga over the past 17 years, I have come to the conclusion that Yoga is Yoga – Union of Body, Mind & Breath. Yoga is both an art of living and a science of life. It applies equally both on and off the mat. This is why I no longer find myself ‘stuck’ in any particular style. My understanding of Yoga has expanded so that my practice is not confined to my mat. I look for union of body, mind & breath everywhere in my life.
In 2014 I completed an advanced teacher training with Lisa Petersen, based on the teachings of Donna Farhi – internationally respected Yoga teacher – (also known as the teacher of teachers). This practice centres around developmental movement patterns which can be observed in every human being from conception to death. Working with the developmental movement patterns has given me a wonderful framework to develop my practice and my teaching in a more fluid and natural way, with the freedom to explore and discover new ways of being in my body and of sharing my learning.
Yoga seems to offer wonderful benefits not just physically but mentally, calming down the mind. What have you discovered from Yoga since becoming a teacher?
Since becoming a teacher, I have discovered that the physical practice (asana) is one small fraction of the whole that makes up Yoga. I used to think that the holy grail of Yoga was being able to stand on my head for an extended period and wondered why my life wasn’t transformed once I was able to do that! Now I realise that the benefits are to be found in the Union implied in the word ‘Yoga’. Whether I am standing on my head or standing in a queue in the supermarket, if I can bring awareness to the moment I am in at any given time (mindfulness), that is, in itself, the practice of Yoga.
The postures (asanas) are simply vehicles that we use to bring awareness and breath together in the body. So, for example, If I can find my balance on one leg on my mat, using my breath to centre me, can I then translate that to my life and remain balanced when everything around me is shifting or in chaos? If I can feel my breath in a deep twist when one of my lungs is compressed, can I better negotiate the twists and turns of life that I have no control over? If I can stand for a period of time in a strong warrior pose, one hand pointing forwards and the other behind, with my torso erect and stable in centre, can I remain poised in the present moment when my thoughts are trying to pull me into the past or the future? These are the real benefits of Yoga – a fit and healthy body is the icing on top!