Where in the world is Paul Nelson?

Where in the world is Paul Nelson?

I am missing Meadowlark. I rather disappeared from the teaching schedule and it happened quite quickly. It sort of unfolded and I would like to explain why.  I am now on sabbatical from teaching with the patient kindness of the Meadowlark team, to focus on my life’s work, (I guess I can call it that), let me explain…

I have been fascinated with the concept of “positive change” for a long time now. I think it came from being a young doctor and having a role tasked with trying to alleviate suffering in people with preventable illnesses, like heart disease, and some cancers, that need never have happened. I did this all hours of day and night.

So I have been a doctor and then became a public health doctor dealing with community level health, making the transition because I saw population approach as a possible way of reducing the unnecessary disease and suffering that comes from unhealthy lifestyles. I also developed a yoga practice over the last 10 years before I became a yoga teacher four years ago. I think yoga was about wanting to walk my talk, whilst also, trying to make the change I wanted to see.

I have loved the balancing of both sides of my work life as I develop in both and over the last five years or so, yoga has come to the fore front as I have grown in confidence as a yoga teacher.  I have particularly learned, there is a transition from “knowing” to “doing” and it is complex and difficult. But it is also magical, and in yoga, as in life, it is as much about a willingness to learn and tentatively try out what I have learned, then slowly developing a habit, developing a practice, while all the while having support from friends but also from a teacher in an ongoing way.  Somewhere along the line, the teacher becomes more than that. The teacher becomes a guru, a coach, someone who is there, with the expertise and the experience, the care and the patience, to keep me going through the hard times, to help me retain belief and resolve and to help me to honour my mind, spirit and body, when I want to self-sabotage.

Six months ago something changed, I had a call from a friend asking me to talk to his brother, a diabetes specialist, from South Africa, I said, ‘of course’. We had a long fascinating conversation about the way health services could be used to support people with long term conditions, through ongoing coaching support and how he was part of a small team that had built a revolutionary coaching programme.  He was talking to me because I had always thought that population programmes for health (like health campaigns) are so unwieldy, often with one simple message, easy enough to understand by anyone but consequently speaking directly to no-one and therefore pretty ineffective.  I had thought that technology and the internet would one day connect us all to support each other, in a very individual way, to look after our long term health.  I had worked in this area for 10 years.  I had had lots of good ideas but I hadn’t ever built anything that had actually helped people.

Well this little team had. There were already 4000 people in South Africa who had used it and the team wanted to bring it to the UK.  Over the years I had got to know how the NHS works and had met loads of NHS doctors, nurses and leaders along the way. I had spoken about my transformative ideas.  So I got very excited about the phone call and the potential for this real programme and he got very excited about my knowledge and experience as a doctor technology person. To cut a very long story short, I have chosen to work with this team and help to bring a diabetes coaching programme to the UK that supports people in an ongoing way with a coach (over the phone).

It is strange because it was my experience of yoga that has convinced me of the importance of a coach to do change.  I can do a physical practice by myself, but my resolve weakens. I can go to a class and that is better, a teacher, a team, and then there is a personal relationship with a teacher, a coach, a guru, that is the key to transformative change. I had learned this through yoga and now I am engaged in bringing that to large numbers of people in great need. I believe it is important work and I am excited to do it and I am sad to set down my yoga teaching (for a while).

So that is why I am off for a few months and as things settle down with this new work I will be back. Hopefully I will have established the seeds of population scale personal coaching for people with diabetes in the UK, not too much to ask, I think… well maybe, but it is good to think big and I will be doing my best.

See you on the mat.


Angie Lake will be covering Paul’s classes until his return in September.  See below for Angie’s timetable (takes a few seconds to load).

Meadowlark Yoga

Visit our studio on the edge of the Meadows, open 7 days a week offering Ashtanga Vinyasa and other styles of 43 Argyle Place, Edinburgh, EH9 1JT 0131 2287581