Monday, October 24, 2011

Interview with a Yogi :: Rachel Hawes

Rachel is a Punk rock yogini, a teacher, a writer, a massage therapist, a sprinkler of fairy dust + a lover of glitter, cake, kitties and Dave Grohl.  She lives in Cambridge UK in a falling down house with her photographer/IT tech boyfriend + two frustrating felines.  She is the owner of Fusion Massage + Movement, has a Masters degree in Victorian Gothic, geeks out over human anatomy and The X-Files, hates snark (she likes to call a spade a spade) and loves Australian soap operas. She blogs at Suburban Yogini.

Follow her on Twitter or Facebook


How do you befriend yr body?
Four little words: move, breathe, smile, eat cake – sorry that’s five words.  Eat and cake are have become one word in my head!
Move every day – even if it’s just a walk around the block, 10 minutes of sun salutations or 3 planks and a set of shoulder rolls.  
Check in on your breath – breathe deep.  Inhale energy, vitatlity, good health.  Exhale stress, tension, worry.
Smile – even when you really really don’t want to.  Even if you have to grit your teeth to do it.  It helps.
And you know, eat your greens and your proteins and your carbs, but always make room for cake.  Everything in moderation!  I recently gave up eating wheat and the first thing I did was teach myself to bake cakes with wheat alternatives!

Describe your yoga practice - remembering that yoga is union, and not just asana. How do you live yoga on the mat, and off the mat?
As a Viniyoga practictioner (from the Paul Harvey school) I work with my teacher on a one-to-one level to create a practice that works for my unique body. We meet about every six weeks to see how I’m going.  I tend to work with my yoga and movement clients in the same way these days and only really teach one group class anymore. We all have unique bodies, we all move differently which is why one-to-one work is so incredibly powerful.  

My asana practice lasts about 30 minutes and I follow it with 10-15 minutes of pranayama. I’m a late afternoon practitioner – I’ve still not mastered the art of early mornings I’m afraid!

I take my breath off the mat with me.  For me the key to a simple stress-free existence is breathing well.  Breath is the union between body, mind and spirit and if you’re not breathing right, you may as well be doing gymnastics! 

Now, don’t get me wrong here, I get as panicked and stressed as the best of them, but when I check in on my breath – take ten even breaths and then come back to whatever was stressing me, things do get simpler.  I promise!


Is meditation part of yr practice? If so, in what way?
Meditation and me have had a love/hate relationship for years.  I think the biggest breakthrough for me was when I realised that you don’t have to sit on the floor to do it!  Sit in a chair, stand, walk.  I’m still lucky if I can go more than 5 minutes without my  monkeymind kicking into fourth gear but I’m getting there.  Slowly, slowly catch a monkey as they say. 

What tips would you give a new meditation or new yogi?
Of all the questions I get asked about anatomy, philosophy, physiology + yoga in general this is the one I find hardest to answer!  See I went to my first yoga class as a child with my mum and my first meditation group as a teenager with my dad so it’s almost in my blood, and it’s hard to remember what it was like knowing nothing about this life.

I would say the absolute number 1, no arguments, is to find a good teacher.  Don’t try and teach yourself yoga or meditation out of a book.  Learn from someone good.  And by good I don’t just mean someone well qualified (although that is hugely important as, sadly, there are a lot of not particularly well qualified people out there), but also someone you click with. You absolutely cannot learn from somebody you don’t get on with.  The students and clients I have are the students and clients I am meant  to have.  Plenty of potential clients have gone elsewhere because they just don’t click with me and that’s fine. 

So, yes, find a good teacher even if you have to shop around and also give yourself time.  Yoga and meditation aren’t “quick fixes” .  It can sometimes take months or even years to start reaping the rewards, but I promise you, it is so worth the wait! 

What is your fave book?
It's always been a toss up between Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights, Charles Dickens' Bleak House and Donna Tart's Secret History....but I'm guessing none of those are really relevant here! 

So my favourite yoga book – and a book I recommend to anyone who is seriously starting to step out along their yoga path and wants to delve deeper -  is Darren Main’s “Yoga and the Path of the Urban Mystic” .  It’s no secret I have a little internet crush on Darren – one of my biggest dreams is to practice with him in San Francisco!  It’s also no secret that I recommend this book to everyone – seriously, Darren, if you’re reading this where’s my cut?!

I don’t ever recommend things lightly – an awful lot of yoga books out there are unadulterated crap but this is beautiful.  Every time I read it I find a new layer to unpeel.  I have two very dog-eared copies  - so that even when I lend a copy I always have another copy in the house.  Just in case!

What is your favourite sequence?
I thought about this one for ages and ages – there are so many awesome sequences and then I thought I’d just share this video I made recently of five yoga poses you can do at your desk:


What is one thing that today you are grateful for?
Love.  All you need is love. And cake. 

How do YOU live a wholehearted life?
And so we come full circle….
Move, Breathe, Smile, Eat cake.

It’s really that simple in my mind.  I think we all spend a lot of time worrying about finding the life of our dreams, worrying that we will never do the things we want to do.  When really if you kick back a little and stop sweating, the life of your dreams will find you. Ultimately, even when we are living the life we’ve dreamt of (and I’ve been dreaming of self-employed small business ownership for a long long time), we still have bills to pay, bathrooms to clean, we still get headaches, we still have arguments, people still piss us off. So ultimately whatever you’re doing and wherever you are on your journey all you have is now.  

Move, Breathe, Smile, Eat Cake.
You can put that on my gravestone! 

2 comments:

Christine Claire Reed said...

As usual, I love how straight forward you are. How...right on the surface. And I LOVE that you hate SNARK. :)

Brook McCarthy said...

How nice to read about a no-bullshit, 'I don't have all the answers' yogini. More! More!

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