I found yoga slightly later in life.
I wasn’t one of those people to go travelling around India and become spiritually enlightened. My journey to yoga took a different, more feet-on-the-ground path, with pints and cake and a few strange alleyways and byways en route.
I tried out a few different exercise classes with my auntie and older cousin in my mid-teens. We gave belly dancing a try – Shakira was right, ‘my hips don’t lie’. And they barely move either. The belly dancing path was sadly not for me.
We then tried a yoga class. Lying in the dark chanting as a teenager in Scotland set us all off laughing hysterically. We did not return.
But this was not the end for yoga and me. In 2001, the Geri Halliwell yoga phenomenon hit the UK and everyone assumed that just by doing yoga you would become that svelte. Geri made it look so cool to be scantily clad doing various yoga postures outside in the sun.
This fun in the sun was short lived for me. Whilst back packing around Europe with my then partner, we went to Barcelona. Channelling my yoga guru, Geri, I stripped off to my pink tie-dye bikini and began my practise in a park. I spotted a suspicious guy lurking about. He disappeared and I forgot about him and carried on. Until, that is, I spotted him watching me from behind a bush while he relieved himself! This was the end of my bikini yoga period and after this I opted for fully clothed classes and normally at a gym.
At 28 I was living in Scotland and working as a qualified Personal Trainer. At the time I loved going to the gym and enjoyed coaching people to reach their goals. But my own fitness path was going through a transition due to groin strains or niggling pains – my body was crying out asking me to stop.
So I went back to yoga.
Just before I turned 30 I attended a Bikram (see ‘Know Your Yoga’) class in Glasgow, The class was held in Steven, the teacher’s flat, in the centre of Glasgow. He would crank up the heat in his living room, close off the exits with wet towels and raise the temperature and humidity by bringing in electric blower heaters. In all honesty this has been my favourite Bikram experience. Steven was genuine, funny and approachable. These are three things I look for in a yoga teacher today. Steven was part of my yoga path.
But it was when I moved from Scotland to Brighton that yoga became a love that would stay in my life.
A few months after finding Steven’s quirky and sweaty yoga class, I came to Brighton on a hen weekend and fell in love with the city. The people, the atmosphere, the sea, the music…. I was hooked and in limbo in Scotland so decided my next move was to be Brighton.
Moving away from family and friends was daunting but liberating. I love the relaxed vibe of Brighton and there are so many yoga classes to choose from. I found a yoga studio and started a regular practice which helped me to feel grounded and focused.
I decided that I wanted to learn more about yoga and its benefits to the extent that I considered training as a yoga teacher. So I searched for a teacher training programme that allowed me to continue to work full-time.
The Sunpower Yoga course with Anne-Marie Newland looked intense but manageable. Every Sunday I travelled to London for three months and completed numerous assessments along the way, weekly homework and then the final exams.
I am not going to lie. I felt like quitting numerous times. Anne-Marie is a very strict teacher. If she ever gives up yoga I think the police college at Tullian in Scotland would snap her up in a minute! Final completion of the course was probably the equivalent of the joy a mother has when labour is over and her baby is born! My body was wrecked but I was grateful for the experience and for meeting such wonderful people.
For me, yoga is unique. My body reacts differently to yoga than to other exercise. It is more than simply a physical experience. And this doesn’t mean you can’t laugh, wobble a bit and have a pint after.
There are so many different types of yoga – it can be hard to decide what is the best choice for you. But call it what you will, it is simply yoga.
Maybe Scottish yoga won’t cotton on but Sunpower yoga has due to its traditional roots. If we want to be technical, the style is classed as Dynamic Hatha and Vinyasa and is suitable for all levels. Students are taught mindfully and carefully with focus on correct alignment and pranayama breathing.
I teach various mornings, afternoons and evening classes all over Brighton and offer one-to-one sessions. My students are lovely. I could not ask for better people to teach, they are a pleasure. We laugh, cry and fall over together and sometimes we go for cake or a pint after class! They are my chosen path; they are my extended family.
Know your yoga: what’s the difference between Hatha and Bikram?
Hatha yoga is a branch of yoga and dates back to the 15th century and it is specific structured poses and other activities to join the mind and the body with the breath. The mind is purified through the postures (asanas) and energy control and with breathing techniques (pranayama).
Bikram yoga is a 90min structured yoga class consisting of 26 postured and 2 breathing exercises in a controlled heated room of 42degrees. Warming the body up allows it to become more flexible.
Vinyasa means linking the breath with the flowing movements of the body.
Kirsty runs regular yoga classes in Brighton East Sussex
Look out for Kirsty’s guide to different forms of yoga on tlfw soon.