What, when and where was your first experience of yoga?
It was at the North London Buddhist Centre, around 12 years ago. I was told to use a strap and bend my knees in a seated forward bend – it was a lightbulb moment.
What made you decide to move from student to teacher?
It was a decision that dragged over many years! I often thought I’d like to teach, but for a long time didn’t think my asana practice was ‘good enough’. Luckily, I now realise that judging one’s yoga practice on the basis of being able to ‘do’ certain asanas is really missing the point.
What teaching tip has had the biggest influence on the way you practice? And the way you teach?
I once asked David Swenson if he had any advice for me as a fledgling teacher, and he told me just to teach what I know. So, that — combined with Carlos Pomeda’s advice to question everyone and everything, and Kate Ellis’ continuing advice to be authentic — seem to have stood me in pretty good stead so far.
What does your own self-practice involve?
This depends on the day. Some days I need to just move and be fluid for an hour or so. Others, I’ll work on one or two poses, trying to figure out what is going on in my body. Some days I’ll just lie down.
Who/what is the biggest inspiration on your yoga journey at the moment?
David Swenson continues to be a big influence on me – his down to earth, accessible and light-hearted approach to yoga practice and life generally is truly inspirational. In more recent years, my excellent teacher and mentor Kate Ellis – since working closely with Kate, my practice has changed immeasurably – my focus now being embodiment, self-acceptance and inquisitiveness, rather than making shapes. And my students, who have great humour, and constantly teach me by showing me what does/doesn’t work for their bodies.
What role does yoga play in the way you live?
My yoga practice naturally reflects and feeds back into my every day life. We can see ourselves pretty vividly on our mats – our strengths, our weaknesses, our wants, our judgements, our self critiques, and our habitual reactions to it all. With practice, I have found a space where I can breathe, and add some acceptance and lightness to the situation. So, we learn useful techniques during our asana practice that can help us in our every day lives.
What do you hope your students to experience when they practice with you?
I hope that my classes cultivate a sense of questioning rather than just doing. That students are provided with a light hearted space to be present, and to get curious about what is going on in their bodies.
Describe the meaning of yoga in 10 words or less
Now, if I could do that, I’d be enlightened/rich…
Martha teaches at our Islington Centre on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 7.30-8.30 and leads regular workshops.