I have just landed back in the U.K after completing a wonderful two-part YIN Yoga teacher training in Switzerland with Nico Luce.
This means I am now a 260 hours Registered teacher with yoga alliance (ie: more advanced and with new skills in my tool kit).
I first qualified as a teacher with 200 hours of training as a Hatha (classic) yoga teacher originally in 2008, graduating from the Prana Yoga College in Vancouver, B.C.
Completing the training was life-changing. I had been a workaholic for over a decade, juggling a part-time TV Acting role in Germany with a degree at St. Martins College and then behind-the-scenes roles in tv and film production in the U.K. such as being a personal assistant to two award-winning filmmakers through the development, production and promotion of their projects and writing/directing/producing some short films myself. There were also about 6 years of touring nightclubs, festivals and art galleries with mixed-media collaborations in music, video and performance-art. Through it all, I kept coming back to yoga at the most stressful of times and would remind myself how GOOD it was for me. At one point, I could see that 6 months ahead there was a break in my schedule with no work lined up, so instead of frantically making, dreaming up or lining up the next project; I knew I needed to step away from it all and gain a clear perspective on how I was living my multiple lives. I wanted to dive deeper into yoga, so I applied for a spot at the yoga teaching college and I had to write an essay on why I wanted to do the training! I also applied for an artist residency programme at The Gershwin Hotel in NYC and had to pitch creative projects I would make whist living there. A few months later I received two letters of acceptance, one for the NYC artist residency and one for the yoga teacher training and fortunately the timings worked out that I could accept both.
I moved into my room on the 13th floor at The Gershwin, making films, throwing parties and making a TV series for their internal hotel TV channel- which welcomed guests when they arrived in their rooms.
Some days I would practise yoga in the ballroom and invite guests in to practise with me (people were there to party not do yoga but sometimes they would join), other days I would put a sheet over my head or cover myself in baby powder and tap dance along the corridors making "ghosty" sounds and saying that I was "The ghost of the Gershwin". Other days I would wear 6 inch heels, a wig and full makeup and ride up and down the ancient elevator chatting to guests, throwing glitter or rose petals, vogueing and rapping electro ditties through a voice-altering megaphone.
I covered my hotel room with hand prints and footprints in neon glow in the dark paint and I interviewed artists and musicians daily for my in-hotel tv show A.I.R. For one party I hosted there, I wore only a small "NIGHT" newspaper as a dress and mostly hula hooped in the foyer. I also starred in an improvised feature film made at The Gershwin by iconic filmmaker and artist Anton Perich. It was definitely the culmination of the craziest and most experimental chapter of my life. SO MUCH FUN! Je ne regrette rien!
Then I packed up the glitter, wigs, tap shoes, costumes and donated them all to an arts collective and travelled over to the west coast of Canada to wear only white for a few months, to peel away the ego, to see through the maya/illusions and dive deep into a yogic lifestyle at the Prana Yoga College.
It was a profound experience to go from one extreme to another and it un-did me in many (good) ways.
I came to understand that creating from the heart would resonate and go far, that creating from the ego would backfire always. I learnt so many things but mainly that the real me was not who I had thought it was and also that we humans mostly go around reacting to things and the higher self is able to see things as they really are and chose accordingly how it wishes to respond. Also, that teaching yoga was as much about holding space for any emotions that could arise for students after a class, as it was about having a strong understanding of anatomy, physiology, philosophy, chakras (the energy body) and asanas (yoga poses).
I graduated a teacher bursting with enthusiasm and information but did not actually know where I was going to teach.
I was welcomed into a community of teachers at YYOGA ( a chain of luxurious beautiful studios around Vancouver). Nico Luce and his wife Chloe were at the helm of gathering this community of teachers and we would meet weekly to share knowledge and tips with one teacher giving a class to the other teachers each week. It was truly inspiring to start learning from and practising with experienced teachers. I was super lithe, strong and bendy at the time so what they all had in years of experience, I made up for in some ways with the ability to easefully get into any asana.
I really loved being in and learning from that teaching community though life called me back towards filmmaking, when I was asked to act in and be a Producer on Indie film "Trooper" in NYC. The project resonated as it was a fictional story about important mental heath issues in particular what soldiers experience mental and emotionally when returning from war.
That project was all-consuming for a year or so with my acting and producer hats on and shooting a documentary behind the scenes (so I could be on set most of the time involved and learning). It was a chance to once again be very focused on the process of filmmaking but with a new way of being and seeing things and holding space and I sometimes practised yoga and meditation with the writer/director/star and the other actors in character, method acting as soldiers and some actors who were actually real war veterans.
The film went on to screen at many festivals and win some awards and is available for download on Vimeo on demand and on DVD on Amazon.
I was asked to do some performance-art in collaboration with artist/sculptor Olympia Scarry - sleeping and meditating on a bed of lightbulbs she had created for an exhibition at the Venice Biennale entitled "Unconditional Love". I was also invited to teach yoga/meditation for the opening week at "PaviliOm" the Mexican pavilion and flew back over to Europe. I then moved back to London and began an apprenticeship with Yogabeats founder David Sye. I assisted him for workshops and events and made music videos for his singer/songwriting side-career and yoga videos to demonstrate his original style and classes.
I turned my open plan flat into a yoga and healing space called "The Zen Den", painting the technicolour walls white and removing the furniture from my living room, so I had space enough to teach small classes or host "holistic"gatherings and also started teaching classes at The Light Centre in Belgravia.
I was offered a scholarship to do a Life Coach training at The Visionary Leadership Corporation with Marry Graham and Maggie Holleran. That became the most empowering chapter of my life as over one year, I studied positive psychology, emotional intelligence, mindfulness, deep listening, intuition, non-violent communication, conflict resolution, gestalt therapy, NLP, public speaking, goal setting, strategy, team building and so much more.
I began to work one on one with people as I had to log many practise coaching hours as a part of my training, so I was assigned all sorts of random people to work with and was also reaching out through social media to find people to work with as a coach-in-training. I was getting feedback that I was good at it, that it was working....so I knew this was the direction for me to keep going in.
I would stop every now and then to assess my own goals and my own lifestyle to ensure I was "Waking the talk".
I produced and hosted a weekly radio show around the themes of wellbeing & creativity called "Motivation Mondays" interviewing artists, healers, yogis and coaches for one year on K2K radio.
I attended Chris Jones' Guerilla filmmakers workshop as a refresher and then in response wrote/directed/produced "Walk With Me?" a guerilla feature film which had been top of my todo for years. The goal for me was to find a creative way to put a spotlight on a big crew of talented artists I had been making short documentary films or collaborating with over the years in London. I met actress Loyse de Pury and we really vibed off each other, so creatively we went together down the rabbit hole of filmmaking, with her playing the insomniac "Miel" meeting all of these artists in her lucid dreams.
I went out to Bali and met yogis, shamans and healers and just kept filming or interviewing people wherever I went.
I taught community classes at the Yoga Barn, was a volunteer giving art workshops at the Green School for Michael Franti's Soulshine Festival and was a publicist interviewing presenters and creating online radio/video content for the Bali Spirit Festival. I trained intensively in Ashtanga yoga with Danny Paradise, staying in a bamboo hut floating on a lake in Thailand and I became a long board surfer in Canggu Bali as a result of the super strength developed in the trainings with Danny and also thanks to befriending a local surf coach/pro Komang Widarma.
Then I came back to the U.K and had a road accident. I got hit out of the blue when I was crossing the road on a crosswalk/zebra crossing, so I was forced to focus on healing my body, bones and psyche, then dealing with PTSD. Having been part of making a film about that, I at least had an understanding of what was going on for me. It was rough, and the recovery has been tough but thankfully it is becoming more of a distant memory. The experience inspired me to create Lightening Magazine and people started sending me their incredible stories about healing to edit and publish.
I then got married and had a child and we are pretty much now living happily ever after...
Since our daughter was born, our hearts have been exploding daily with wonder, fascination and gratitude.
My intention with the Yin yoga training was to "get back on the horse", to re-connect to the love of yoga and my skills as a teacher. I knew I was no longer a power yogi and that I don't want to practise or teach that style, but YIN was calling to me as it is the only sort of class I have enjoyed post accident and post child.
It is a powerful and very healing sort of yoga focused on deep surrender and also on clear mindfulness. The yogi must be aware of their own limitations, of their physical body and their inner world during this practise. If you do not pay attention to levels of pain you could really hurt yourself (like in all yoga) but this is both a healing/calming process for the mind and a deep relaxation for the body specifically the fascia which is a large web that connects everything within us. It is now absolutely my favourite form of yoga, so it was a great pleasure to be able to study it and train with Nico Luce who is a formidable, knowledgable and charismatic teacher.
Perhaps the surprise highlight for me was being asked to sing and share kirtan at the end of our course (after saying how I contemplated doing so during the sivasana when everyone was resting at the end of the class I taught.)
I quickly made a short list of a few songs I could sing and felt quite nervous to sing in front of a group of wide awake yogis and they thankfully joined in with me, getting up and dancing around much to my and everyone else's delight.
It was a truly heart warming and fun experience, to connect with a supportive tribe of kindred spirits and in the end to sing for/with them. It was so much fun that I would like to do more of that.
I am now inspired to share what I have learnt and to teach it, specifically to work with stressed out people and people who are a year or more on from the recovery of injuries or trauma.
I also plan to incorporate it with my work as a Life Coach, if someone is in a mental loop about an issue I fee the best remedy is to get them moving or onto the mat - into their bodies/out of their head and unblocking the emotions stored in various organs. Yin postures are really good for that.
Checkout the Sage & Strong website for 2019 workshops and retreats which I will be co-creating and co-hosting with great healers and teachers.
Now the year is drawing to a close, enjoy the wind down and the festive season.
Think about what it is you want to let go, and what it is you want to manifest.
Thanks to Nico for inspiring these questions, as it is how we wrapped up our course!
Looking forward to seeing you in person (or on skype) for a coaching session, workshop, retreat or Yin yoga classes.
And if you want to co-create something together, get in touch. I am open to it!
Bye for now and if I don't write again....
See you next year!