I’ll be honest. I hated my first yoga class …
You may have heard many yoga teachers say that “yoga found them”. Well, I most certainly ‘found yoga’!
Back in 1999, I was a stressed-out high school teacher with debilitating lower back pain left over from my days as a dancer.
I was searching for a ‘cure’.
I’m a ‘Type A’ personality and distinctly remember that first yoga class (a pretty strict Ashtanga practice), crying angry silent tears into my yoga mat.
Why couldn’t I ‘do’ everything? As an ex-dancer surely I should be more flexible / stronger / more resilient than this!
And … why is that woman in her 60’s next to me making it look so easy?
Maybe you can relate?
As someone who has always been a little bit of a perfectionist, attempting difficult asana whilst being told to ‘let go and relax’ was the hardest thing in the world for me to wrap my head around.
My body fought against my mind but I persevered through that first year of ego-crushing classes until the real teachings of yoga began to shine forth.As my body began to yield to the practice, the difficult questions began to arise …
What was I pushing so hard for?
Where was all this self-judgment coming from?
Why was I not content with what I had or who I was?
What was missing?
The Breaking Point
Called to understand more, I signed up for a Yoga Teacher Training course with Himalaya Yoga Valley and graduated two days after my 30th birthday. I found myself at a turning point, kind of like a ‘third of a life’ crisis!
Leaving the bubble of YTT and returning home to my ‘regular life’ illuminated just how disconnected I felt to my environment.
I had a great job, my own home, friends, family, and a wonderful boyfriend but there was an emptiness I couldn’t quite put my finger on.
So I did something drastic
I quit my job, broke up with my boyfriend, put my house up for lease and bought a one-way ticket to Morocco to teach yoga at a surf camp.
I stayed for almost a year.
Looking back I am so grateful for that first initiation into teaching abroad. I hosted almost 20 yoga retreats in that first year and as I grew in confidence a little seed began to form …
back to the motherland
In 2014, almost the moment I stepped foot back in the UK, I was planning to leave again, this time for a 300-hour Teacher Training in Goa, India. I had well and truly caught the ‘travelling yogi’ bug and started my Instagram account that year in the same name.
Only, this time, rather than returning ‘home’ afterwards, I stayed in India, started my own business SoulTribe Retreats and eventually became a full-time nomad – a love affair that lead to many years ‘on the road’ offering retreats and trainings all over the world.
The First Retreat …
The first retreat I organised on my own was at my home studio in Goa in 2014. Only 5 people signed up but I was hooked!
The planning, preparation, logistics and coordination appealed to my ‘contol-freakishness’ but it was the ability to design my own programme, weaving in all the elements of yoga and travel that fed me on a soul-level.
As SoulTribe Retreats grew, I knew wanted to give my students a glimpse of life as a travelling yogi. I started partnering with locally owned venues, planning cultural trips, inviting local musicians to play during classes and offering indigenous food.
Now, 10 years on, having led more than 85 retreats all over the world, what I most love is seeking out new places for my students to practice yoga and immerse themselves in the local culture.
For me, travel and yoga are intrinsically linked … the bread to my (plant based) butter.
Traveling has Been the biggest lesson in yoga
Before I began traveling, I often struggled with change.
Over the years, choosing the life of a ‘traveling yogi’ has become a conscious way to challenge my need to have everything ‘just so’ and instead, dive headfirst into a life that is transient, ever-changing and yep … at times, pretty unstable!
I know that on a subconscious level, I chose this path because it is the one that connects me most closely to the yoga practice. It’s equal measures calming and energizing, beautiful and raw, complex and oh-so simple and it requires me to be vulnerable every single day.
Throughout all of the ups and down of life on the road, the one constant has been my yoga practice.
My yoga mat has been unrolled on countless strange floors, in many countries. It has been sweat on, cried on, it has been an airport sleeping mat. It definitely still has a few chai stains and little miniature burn marks from too many rogue incense sticks!
Most of all, life as a travelling yogi has taught me that ‘home’ is not a place, it is an internal landscape. A peaceful and grounding environment that we can all create within ourselves.
A New Normal
Thankfully, both traveling and yoga have given me the gifts of resilience and adaptability, a willingness to ‘take things in my stride’ and remain flexible not just in body but in mind too!
When the Covid pandemic hit in March 2020, I was midway through leading a teacher training in India. As we hurriedly sent 30 students back to their home countries I was once again left with a big decision … take the next flight to Bali knowing the retreats I had coming up there may well be canceled, or, join my boyfriend in California knowing it may be the only chance I had to get there.
This time i chose love
I packed up my life in Goa in a little under 24 hours and flew out to California before the borders closed.
Three weeks later, we were engaged.
One week later, in April 2020, we married at a little courthouse in Arizona.
When you know, you know.
A leap of faith
There is a beautiful line in my chakra book that says – “the gift of adversity is never given without the ability to overcome it”.
As my life took a U turn, there was a great deal of resistance initially. Adapting to life in America after years in a tiny Asian beach town was a culture shock. I had to wear shoes to go grocery shopping and none of my hippy beach dresses quite hit the mark!
Looking back at those first tentative months in a new country, I am so thankful for the choices that I made.
In times when life feels out of control, my path as a traveling yogi has taught me that life doesn’t happen to you, it happens FOR you.
The universe isn’t trying to trip you up. All it’s asking is that you open up your eyes and see the opportunities presented to you.
Maybe that’s a new career, the end of something old to make space for something amazingly new, an opportunity to choose love, an invitation to be vulnerable, a willingness to just ‘go with it’.
As I write this, I am now 40 years old, 22 years into my practice and SoulTribe Retreats is still going strong almost 10 years since its creation. I am also a wife and mamma to a beautiful one-year-old baby girl named India.
In an effort to save my business during worldwide lockdowns, I created an online platform SoulTribe TV. As I write this, I have recorded over 500 classes and five 28-day courses to date and I still teach live every week.
In 2021, I tentatively resumed retreats and teacher trainings. I also got pregnant and took baby India with me in utero all over Europe that summer, feeling her grow month by month.
Our baby girl was born in February 2022 in the middle of a three-month teacher training (don’t worry, it was in our new hometown of San Diego!) and although California is home for now, I am still regularly bitten by the travel bug.
My baby daughter joined me on her first teacher training course at the tender age of 5 months old and has also graced us with her presence on retreats in Bali, Portugal and the UK. Next month, we travel to her namesake, India, for a retreat that marks her first birthday.
Raising A Tiny Human
Becoming a mother is the most fulfilling, exhausting, soul-feeding adventure I have experienced to date and I am blessed to be able to bring our baby girl along as I continue traveling and teaching around the world.
As we embark upon this new journey together, I hope to instill in her an adventurous, curious spirit.
I hope she will be a child of the world and walk with people from all cultures.
I hope she will grow to value diversity, inclusivity, and equity.
But most of all I hope to teach her that everything in this amazing crazy life is a gift and that once she starts to recognise that, the entire world will open up to her.