8 Things I’ve Learned From Teaching Yoga For Over 50 Years
Although I’ve been teaching yoga now for over 50 years, I wasn’t always a yoga teacher.
I started my career by training at St Mary’s Hospital, Paddington to be a State Registered Nurse then, looking for something totally different, I spent five happy years exploring the world as an air stewardess with BOAC (now British Airways). After getting married and having two children, we moved to Scotland and it was there that I searched for something to help me get back into shape and meet new friends. I saw an advert for yoga and decided to give it a try, back then it wasn’t as ubiquitous as it is now and the truth is I had no real idea what it was when I turned up for my lesson. I had no idea that this one introductory lesson would change the whole course of my life.
My first yoga class was an incredibly humbling experience; I couldn’t believe how stiff and uncoordinated I was! I was only 29 but people twice my age were in much better shape and much more flexible than me. My biggest shock though, was seeing my teacher, she was in her late fifties and moved effortlessly into seemingly impossible positions with the agility of a child. Her body was fantastic, she was slim and perfectly toned, but what really struck me was that she had an energy that radiated from her and lit up the room.
I left the class feeling transformed, my tiredness had gone, I felt calmer and much more in control. I was walking taller and felt totally uplifted by the experience. I knew right then that I had found my calling. As I continued with the classes, I was thrilled by the progress I was making, my body had become firmer, my flexibility had improved, and I had more energy.
Eventually, I decided to take 3-years-long teachers’ training course in yoga which gave me a fantastic understanding of the practice, including its history, philosophy, and many benefits. Over the years I have continued to study and teach yoga in my yoga school in Surrey and have taught literally thousands of pupils and my videos and DVDs have sold all over the world. I have now perfected my own method of teaching which I feel makes this brilliant 5000+ year old system relatable to the needs of people living now.
I truly believe that yoga is the key to a long and healthy life both in mind and body. Here are some of things I’ve learnt from yoga over my five decades of practise:
- The word yoga means union between body, mind and spirit. It is so easy to put your body in one compartment and do physical exercises without thinking about your mind. However, the Yogis of Ancient India realised that for perfect health, body, mind and spirit should work together in perfect harmony. To get the most out of your practise you should explore both your physical and spiritual natures.
- Yoga teaches us to live in the present and stop worrying about yesterday or being anxious about tomorrow. ‘The past is history, the future is a mystery, but the present is a gift’. Even when it doesn’t feel like it, trust me, it really is!
- There are a variety of yoga poses designed to keep the spine in great condition, which is crucial to staying fit and healthy throughout your life. Always remember, ‘you are only as young as your spine is flexible’. You’ll thank me later in life for this one.
- ‘Breath is life, and those who only half breathe, half-live’. By teaching us breathing exercises to calm and relax the mind, delivering as much oxygen as possible to every cell in the body in the process, yoga frees us from nervousness, low energy levels, and breathing difficulties.
- Yoga works every muscle and ensures perfect flexibility of each joint in the body – I credit the practice for preventing injuries and keeping my joints in good condition over the years.
- Yoga releases tension leaving you calm and peaceful, which I have found helps with managing stress. There are many books and courses now telling us about the vital importance of sleep and the best ways to ensure a good night’s sleep, but for me yoga has always been the thing to ensure I sleep soundly every night.
- Yoga teaches us the enormous power of the mind on every area of the body – if you practice yoga with the intention of developing a positive mindset and taking care of your wellbeing, you will live a happier and healthier life.
- Yoga teaches us the power of focus. When you concentrate on an object, as you do in yoga balances, your mind clears and is given relief from day-to-day activities – it is given a rest.
For me yoga has been the secret not just to a longer life but to a happier, healthier and more fulfilled one. To all you young yoga lovers out there maintain your practise and you’ll find its effects become more and more profound as the years go by. Enjoy.
Barbara Currie is teaching yoga classes online