by Nadine Watton
Entering the third decade of teaching Yoga… who would have thought it?!
During one of our chats, Karen and I realised that we are both celebrating our 20th anniversary of teaching Yoga. It really is amazing how quickly time goes by and these landmark moments always provide the opportunity to reflect and consider the journey of the years gone by.
My introduction to yoga was through Ashtanga Yoga which I fell in love with instantly and I have had the privilege to learn from some amazing teachers from the start. My beginnings of Yoga teaching was assisting my teacher at the time, Abbey Daniel, in the Mysore room, assisting her in beginners classes and then, with the guidance of Abbey, beginning to teach classes which I started at the age of 23 when I lived in London.
In the early 90’s the Yoga scene was very different to what it is now. There were very few dedicated Yoga studios. We had no Instagram, no Facebook, I was just starting to get my head around the internet/email, mobile phones were still rare amongst 20 somethings – if we wanted class cover we had to actually phone people up… on their landline!
Triyoga opened in the early 90’s which was a groundbreaking new thing: a dedicated Yoga Studio – one of London’s first. Very exciting stuff – my first teacher Jean Hall was there from the beginning so I started attending her classes there and then a whole world of amazing teachers and styles of yoga opened up to me. Interestingly, Amy Hughes’ teacher Brigit Woods-Kramer was one of the movers and shakers behind Triyoga – and Amy and I were most certainly visiting Triyoga at the same time although we never met then. It is amazing to see how many dedicated Yoga studios have grown and established over the years, bringing yoga to the people. Community based and charity Yoga projects have also been an awesome thing to see grow – and watching Yoga move into schools and into the NHS has been such an amazing shift.
We are all seekers…
Whilst filling myself up working with as many teachers as possible, attending workshops and gleaning as much knowledge as I could, I found Dave Charlton and trained through the British Wheel of Yoga with him for almost 3 years. Working with Dave Charfton was an eye and mind opening experience – it shifted me from the world of Ashtanga Yoga to the Viniyoga style and he developed my pranayama practice, chanting and opened up a whole realm of Yoga Philosophy to me – making it accessible. I still learn from him now and he is currently helping me to get my head around the Samkhya Karika.
One thing that I love about Yoga is that all practice is valid. It is difficult to maintain a practice for almost 25 years and some practitioners like to stay to a purist tradition. Which is cool. Some practitioners, like myself, prefer to branch out… deepening understanding of other styles of yoga practice. All my continuous learning into the layers of Yin Yoga, Restorative Yoga, meditation and philosophy have fully enriched my teaching practice and life on so many levels and continue to do so.
My teaching journey has taken me across the full spectrum of teaching venues and situations – meeting and working with such a wonderful variety of people – in draughty church halls,community centres, gym studios with bangin’ house music pumping in from the weights room next door, beautiful zen yoga spaces, drug rehabilitation centres, corporate spaces, nurseries, schools, my own home, other people’s homes… I always feel so privileged to be invited into fellow practitioners homes to share teaching with them.
Here are some of the players in my 25 years of Yoga practice – so many of them still sit close in my heart when I practice and when I teach…
Jean Hall. Abbey Daniel. Tara Fraser. John Scott. Mark Hill. Norman Blair. Pattabhi Jois. David Swenson. Matthew Sweeney. Leela Miller. Alexander Medin. David Roche. Dave Charton. Brigit Woods-Kramer. Max Strom. Louise Grime. Julie Friedeberger. Nigel Jones. Debbie Blunden. Jo Manuel. A.G Mohan. Eileen Gauthier. Jane Kersel. Karen Kirkness. Sarah Hatcher, Ryan Speilman. Emma Isokivi. Amy Hughes. Judith Hansen-Lassater. Aki Omori. Anna Ashby. Robin Catto, Uma Dunsmore-Tuli. Wendy Teasdill. Susan Reynolds. Joey Miles.
The main pleasure is the students…
I feel blessed to have encountered such wonderful teachers and fellow practitioners over the years. However, the main pleasure comes in the vast number of students I have worked with, and continue to work with. The dedication and focus they all show – whether I have been seeing them once a week for many years or whether I have helped them become Yoga teachers. I am in awe of all student’s commitment, focus, enthusiasm and hard work. People bring themselves out of their comfort zones, whether they are taking their first step into a Yoga space or whether they are stretching their boundaries and facing their fears of public speaking by attending a teacher training, Truly inspiring!
I have been reflecting on the highlight moments over the years… there have been a lot… the main one is meeting and sharing the practice of Yoga with so many people from all walks of life, getting to know people, hearing their stories and also enjoying the regular quiet connection with people. We often don’t need to say anything to anyone to feel the quiet support and camaraderie that is there.
At times when things have been feeling challenging in my own life, Students have been supportive and offered kind words and support. When I used to be too scared to chant “Om “ in my classes, I had a lovely group who would say “don’t worry, it’s just us – you can mess it up with us!” They gave me so much support. I also get given “thank you” cards from time to time – thanking me for sharing the teachings and telling me how supportive the classes have been. I feel so grateful for these but also feel the students should be thanking themselves – they are the ones that have done the true work and made the step to come to class to take care of themselves.
Another highlight is when I taught at a drug rehabilitation centre – one student was struggling so hard to control his cravings and one day he worked out that he could help himself through these with Ujjayi breathing. I bumped into another student from the same rehab project at a Yoga studio when I went to a class – he felt inspired and confident enough to try Yoga outside of the rehab programme. A big step for this guy.
The other stand out moment for me is the laughter! The sheer joy at sharing these moments, big or small, with people. Being part of the ups and downs which we all experience in our lives and on our mats. We all strive for focus and quietude in our practice but sometimes it’s just good to have a good laugh – especially at oneself.
So I want to say thank you … thank you to the Yoga, the lineage of teachers and teachings, fellow teachers and especially to all the students and fellow practitioners I have had the pleasure to work with over the years.
I’m looking forward to see what the next decade will bring.
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Photo by Rachel Laird @ Olive Video