...the hopeless yoga teacher!
One of my teachers and there have been many, would constantly remind me that “nothing stays the same” that our states are "transient", whereas the late, great Jean Claude would bellow across the kitchen “if things don’t change they will probably stay the same” accompanied by "Stookes you are little fucker" in his deepest lyonnaise, smoky galouise accent. How things have changed for us all in 2020!
My owning a yoga studio lasted about as long as owning a restaurant some twenty years ago. The yoga studio faired a whole lot better than the restaurant. However, being a small yoga space in a beautiful old beamed loft, does not lend itself to the UK governments guidance, published 9th July 2020, for opening gyms and leisure centres. It would be impossible to socially distance yoga students, in accordance to the guidance in the studio, so I took the decision to close my latest venture. It was an absolute delight to meet and share the unique brand of Stookes yoga with so many wonderful yogis who found their way to the Creekside Yoga Sanctuary in Faversham, Kent. I am forever grateful for the support and inspiration of so many who helped make Creekside Yoga a success.
In July 2018 I was somewhat stopped in my tracks with yoga teaching and all the other activities I do to amuse myself as I was diagnosed with bladder cancer. The transition from well person to cancer patient as many will know is a remarkable and emotional journey. I have written about this in my blog Ramblings - My journey with bladder cancer I'm not ashamed to say that for a time I was very angry with yoga! As a very dear friend and mentor pointed out... I was thinking Yoga had let me down! It hadn't but my cognitive functioning was working that way. However, some excellent treatment, medical care, mindfulness, positivity I gradually returned to teaching.
After a long career within Juvenile Criminal Justice, Youth Services, Adult Education and the Voluntary Sector, I was a bad-ass and did that whistle-blowing thing. I wasn't happy about the way some young people were being treated, so I blew the whistle and the shit hit the fan. Shortly after this, in yet another local authority restructure, I was rather keenly offered the opportunity to apply for redundancy. I did and being old I could start taking my pension, it was a win win situation. All this led me to my half-baked and hair-brained idea of pursuing my yoga practice, which is somewhat odd because I don't really like yoga. I have an immense dislike of yoga teachers and there's so much rubbish out there. However, what I do know are the remarkable benefits of yoga. As I write my book it is becoming evidently clear to me that I've been a yogi in one incarnation or another all of my life!
I trained as a yoga teacher in India and the UK with a traditional Hatha yoga practice. I have trained in Yoga Therapy with the Minded Institute, London. Other yoga specialisms include Yoga for Autism and Asperger’s, Restorative Yoga, Yin Yoga, Yoga Nidra and Meditation. I like to think I buck the trend of the stereotypical yoga teacher and my journey into and through yoga has not always been easy. I believe yoga is for everyone, regardless of age, shape, size, faith, it works on so many different levels, in so many ways. My practice is deeply rooted in ancient yogic philosophy yet synchronised with the latest evidence based neuro-science and mindfulness research.
The type of yoga I teach is predominantly a vinyasa flow, working with movement and breath and restorative yoga. Flows are good, the one thing the body is designed to do is move. For me, whole concept of yoga being a union between the body, mind and breath is where it’s at. I will often expound the benefits of asana, pranayama and how evidence suggests what we are doing in a class affects us neurologically, physically, psychologically, emotionally. I do get carried away because it is so fascinating, you as a human being are amazing, doing incredible things in a yoga practice and I like you to know just what you're doing Restorative yoga is just the best, we need to restore ourselves way more than we ever do. Restorative yoga, like yin yoga is a deep and often emotive yoga practice, it's very powerful. I'm amazed that I have remembered all that stuff from my teachings and I am passionate about how we can bring wellbeing to our lives through this crazy practice called yoga. Many students say I have “the voice” and that my style of teaching yoga is very unique.
I get how difficult it is to step on a yoga mat, an inner dialogue that so often accompanies going to a yoga class, coming face to face with some new people, a strange place, peculiar moves, words/names, music and ideas. Trying yoga for the first time is often challenging and comes with a measure of scepticism, doubt and fear. I hope am able to convey a sense of safety and being at ease in my classes, a sense of "listening to your body before you listen to me", "listen to where your body needs to be" and "it's only a practice". Apparently one of my endearing characteristics is that I will get my left from right mixed up, occasionally fall over and regularly laugh at myself. Sometimes I get it wrong with the stuff I say, I say a lot of stuff. As a yoga teacher I know I am not everyone's 'cup of tea', which is good. I'm always happy to recommend other teachers that I know of, and different styles of yoga.
One of the greatest things I learnt from my teacher training in India was to accept where you are, what you can do and who you are in your yoga practice. This was such a huge relief, for I had such a torrid time in my first teacher training in Essex, not all teacher trainings are equal. I would certainly recommend immersing yourself in a practice in India. It is a very sad indictment that in such a beautiful 'thing' (and yoga is a thing) cliques, competition and bullying exist.
Many people say I have a very spiritual aspect to my teaching. I guess I do, I’ve always been interested in the spiritual side of things. My first degree was social sciences with theology. However, I am acutely aware that there are some populations for whom spouting off about the philosophical side of yoga, unicorns and mysticism is not the best. First and foremost, we need to create safety and be grounded. But if you want to find out more about the historical, philosophical, spiritual aspects of yoga come and join me on the mat I invariably pontificate on the concept of yoga.
My final thing before some Om Shanti Namaste is... Yoga is only ever a practice, that's all, just a practice. The benefits of this practice are unique to each and every one of us.
Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti.