The Yoga Teacher of the Month for July is former nurse, Carol Snape from Devon. Carol is actually the first #yogateacherofthemonth on the blog that I haven’t personally worked with, and I have really enjoyed hearing from someone new to find out about their journey in teaching. Carol teaches a modern and athletic Ashtanga Vinyasa practise, but also integrates sanskrit, pranayama and chanting. I personally felt that Carol’s answers really reflect a deep but joyous passion for yoga and I really LOVE her idea of showcasing real people doing yoga on ‘the yoga body community’ – what a fantastic way to make yoga more accessible rather than intimidating.
Q. When and why did you start doing yoga?
A. I’m originally an anaesthetics and recovery nurse, and have been since 2009. I began yoga about 4-5 years ago as I was looking for something to help me unwind after work and calm my busy mind. I began attending ‘hot yoga’ sessions and soon noticed the impact it had on me both mentally and physically. I felt stronger, healthier but also calmer and less anxious. I soon became hooked and attended as many sessions as I could as well as squeezing in home practice before and after shifts.
Q. Tell us about where you trained or whom you trained with as a yoga teacher?
A. I trained at Sampoorna yoga, in Goa, India. Sampoorna is huge on social media and i started to notice more and more people posting photos of the beautiful school and reading amazing testimonials, so as soon as I got the money together, I booked it! My training was 200 hours over just under 4 weeks. It was incredibly intense, early mornings and late nights but the people on the course became a family and it wasn’t until I got home that it all sunk in how amazing the experience was!. I trained in Ashtanga Vinyasa which is a fairly athletic style of yoga but also deeply relaxing and rewarding. I see it as a complete work-out, both body and mind.
Q. Whats been the most valuable lesson you have learnt since training as a yoga teacher?
A. That every body is beautiful and EVERY body is a yoga body. I have people say to me all the time that they don’t think they are flexible/slim/strong enough for yoga but as the saying goes, ‘if you can breathe, you can do yoga’. The way I look at people in class is that we are all just living breathing human beings all worthy of love, respect and calm. Within my classes I have created ‘the yoga body community’ where I showcase the amazing people who attend my classes on my website and social media platforms. This is to not just show the person in the photo that they are amazing and ‘enough’ but to also demonstrate to others that yoga comes in all shapes and sizes and is accessible to all.
Q. If you could choose only 5 yoga poses to practice every day, what would they be and why?
A. This is a tricky one!
I guess my first would be downward facing dog- ado mukha svanasana. I find this posture amazing for stretching out the hamstrings, lengthening the spine and creating strength in the shoulders and arms.
Second would be, cat/cow. This breathe lead movement is fantastic for giving the back a good stretch and undoing any tension and knots. Deeply relaxing, this nearly always features at the start of my classes.
Third, Warrior 2 – Virabradhasana 2. I like to create a strong warrior, with arms strong and straight like they’re being pulled in two seperate directions and gazing over my right hand. This posture is a great hip opener and an all round energiser for the body.
Fourth, Bridge pose – Setu bandhasana. This is a wonderful stretch out for the back and strengthens the legs and buttocks! i personally find this position very relaxing and often close my eyes when in the posture.
Fifth, Childs pose- balasana. Aaaah beautiful child’s pose. Where the forehead meets the mat, the arms reach forward and the back gets a deep stretch. The perfect moment to focus on your breath, withdraw the senses and relax. Bliss.
Q. Whats the most challenging yoga pose for you?
A. Anything that involves deep backbends. My back is fairly stiff and i struggle to get into very deep bending postures. Because of this i tend to avoid these positions which i have to tell myself not to do! Often the positions you dislike are the ones you should challenge yourself with in order to build that strength and flexibility in that area of your body.
Q. For physical health, do you only do yoga, or do you participate in other sports or activities?
A. I’m a fairly active person in general. I’ll often take our dog to the beach for walks, use light weights for toning and go jogging. Most of my physical activity though does come from yoga. As I said before, the style I teach is quite athletic so if you’re doing an hour’s class, you’re guaranteed to end up in a sweat!
Q. Do you make a living from yoga teaching? If yes, how do you do it, if no, what else do you do?
A. Right now I am making enough through yoga to live. I teach group classes throughout the week and also have 1-2-1 clients who I see on a weekly basis. There’s not much of a secret to it, I just stay true to myself and the style of yoga I teach, welcome every body to class and make sure people leave with a smile on their face!
Q. What is it that keeps you practicing yoga?
A. Yoga is now a part of my life and I can’t imagine a week or even a few days without it! To me, there is something so special and wholesome about zoning out, focusing on my breath whilst pushing my body each practice to achieve even greater things then the previous practice. There is a lot of patience that’s needed in yoga. Sometimes people get frustrated when they can’t achieve the full expression of a pose at their first class, but it’s a journey that we’re all on. Even the most experienced yogi is always learning. By regular practice and having patience, you soon see the amazing things your body can do and its that ever evolving journey that keeps me hooked.
Q. Do you prefer a more traditional style of yoga or an evolved modern style? and what do you think about how yoga has evolved?
A. I definitely prefer a more modern style of yoga but certainly always maintain the integrity of the practice by including sanskrit, pranayama and chanting. My classes always have music playing as for me, I find it helps me to zone out further and quieten my busy mind. I think very traditional yoga can be quite daunting and off putting to someone who is new to the practice as until you understand what it is you are doing, you are going to feel lost!. I think yoga has evolved to suit the modern man and woman but I don’t see this as a bad thing. As long as it is doing what it is intended to do, there’s no harm in it.
Q. If you could give only one piece of advice to a complete beginner walking into a yoga class for the first time, what would it be?
A. Don’t worry! Yoga is totally personal and everyone is there to focus on themselves. Everyone was a beginner once and nobody is perfect, no matter how long they’ve been practicing for. The first step is just coming to class. From here, don’t worry about your lefts, rights or your flexibility level, this will all come in time. Just enjoy the moment knowing that what surrounds you is only encouragement, non judgment and love.
Q. Could you share with us an important/touching moment you have experienced as a yoga teacher?
A. Yes! I taught a lovely lady in a 1-2-1 who was on holiday in Devon and had recently had a baby. She was concerned about her core strength and wanted a gentle flow. At the end of her holiday she attended a class and said to me at the end ‘you have helped me feel like me again’. This meant more to me than any other compliment I’ve had as a teacher as that is what yoga is all about. Feeling comfortable and confident in your own skin.
Q. Is there anything you wish your yoga students knew about you?
A. Mainly just how grateful i am that they allow me to teach them! My heart absolutely swells when I see these gorgeous people return to class and their mats time and time again and trust me when I’m guiding them through flows. It’s the best job in the world.