This morning I am interviewing my lovely yoga teacher, Phillipa Wilson over breakfast. Phillipa works in Derby and I have asked her to put her class schedule in this interview as I’d love for people to experience the enrichment that yoga brings to my life. Phillipa is quite a special friend and I hope you enjoy meeting her over breakfast today.
Good morning Phillipa, what are you eating for breakfast and what is your view as you eat?
I have the day off today so am treating myself to my favourite breakfast – fresh fruit and yogurt. So today its banana, raspberries (from the garden), nectarine, blueberries and plum, covered with Rachel’s ginger and honey yogurt! I had a glass of multivitamin fruit juice earlier, mixed with water, straight after my morning practice. A coffee will follow soon. I am sat looking into the garden watching the sparrows arguing whilst the lesser spotted woodpecker feeds on the nuts. He is beautiful and so shy. There is also a large wood pigeon strutting up and down the lawn. I like him but wish he wouldn’t chase the doves as they are so graceful…I love how they partner up for life. I really enjoy being sat here in the warmth looking out, and my serene Buddha statue sat amongst the flowers, reminds me of how wonderful life is.
Why did you decide to train as a yoga teacher?
The simple reply to that is that I wanted to find out more about the philosophy of yoga, I had no intention of actually teaching! I never thought I could possibly be a teacher, that people would want to come to my classes. It never ceases to amaze me that people return week after week and that new folks make the enquiry! I am so passionate about yoga and I guess that comes through in my classes.
Although I ‘found’ yoga (a physical practice) on my 40th birthday, I actually feel that my whole life journey so far has been a lesson and has been directing me to this point. When I meditate and when I question things in my practice I realise that the experiences I have had, I now understand so much better. I understand why I did some of the things I have done, why certain circumstances came about, why my parents taught us in the way they did, etc etc. It was all meant to be so I could learn and then share from some understanding.
I would never have understood all of this if I had not gone to Sylvia Townley’s yoga class. She opened the door for me that yoga is so much more than making your body into some odd shape it really didn’t want to be in! She taught me to breath, how important the simple act of breathing is. She taught me that when we look within through meditation, we find clues and sometimes answers. With Sylvia I realised that the importance of posture work is lost if you cannot breathe properly or feel what you are doing and work with what you have, not what you think you have or want. The ego is left outside when we practice! She inspired me and started me on this journey, and I believe it is a journey that will never end as there is so much wonderment on the way.
I decided to train with the British Wheel of Yoga and the basis I have from them is fantastic. It has given me a good base from which to grow. I was SO scared when I took my first class, which was for a friend as she had a hip replacement operation. I did four classes for her and everyone was so wonderful. I really enjoyed it and then decided it was time to start my own. That was in April 2010 and now I have 4 yoga classes, 1 meditation class and, I have just returned from running my second yoga retreat weekend, last weekend, which was wonderful.
I know you also undertook extra training to teach yoga for cancer can you tell me about your reasons for this?
For me yoga is inclusive, and it is healing. It is time out from our busy lives. Before I had even started my teacher training, I had nine people close to me with cancer. I felt surrounded by this awful disease and a little helpless if I am honest. Two things happened, quite some time apart. Sylvia, my teacher, found she had cancer. But what an inspiration – she continued on teaching us, coming to class after her chemo, never complaining, always saying “the real me is fine, just the physical body is suffering”. She was an amazing woman. My best friend Jo, who I knew for such a short time, six years, had had cancer since she was 20 and she died at 49, finally her body was unable to fight infection following yet another tracheotomy. I still miss her terribly but both of these women showed great strength of character, were real driving forces and never gave up just because it was difficult or challenging. They used whatever they could to continue enjoying life…yoga for Sylvia, glass bead making for Jo (having spent her younger life organising world athletic events and European football events!) They never complained, they were always positive.
During all of this I met Julie Friedeberger, a yoga teacher in the Satyananda tradition and who took yoga to another level following her personal experience of breast cancer. Another inspirational woman, with whom I undertook the Yoga for those living with cancer course. This was a very tough course for me as it brought up a lot of emotion around the disease. But, I learnt so much about how yoga can help this group of people so much. I actually use that learning now for people with all sorts of health and ability issues. It is so powerful…gentle but also strengthening, physically, emotionally and mentally.
I teach a group of ladies all with gynaecological cancers and the first time I walked into that class I was amazed at how positive and supportive they are of one another and everyone around them. They are very inspirational women. They have written a book ‘One Voice’ which is available for sale. A number of ladies wrote a short story or poem alongside their picture and the aim of the book is to show that there is life after being told you have cancer; that you do survive and lead a normal life; that we are all different.
How easy do you find it to combine your day job with your yoga classes and your own practice?
It isn’t easy at all! I would love to make yoga my full time job and maybe one day it will come…I keep asking the Universe for some help (and buying a lottery ticket!). I am so happy when I am in class as I love sharing the little I know. I love the interaction with people and it is so pleasing when people start to notice a change within themselves. I am just the link for them, they have to do the hard work!
Fitting in my daily practice has been a huge challenge. But, even 5 minutes here and there is so beneficial. At the beginning of this year though I did decide to reduce my hours slightly at work…this gives me Friday off so I get in lots of practice then! And head space time!
I can tell you are passionate about yoga, If you had to put your message into a sentence or a motto what would it be?
There are so many Miriam and I am rubbish at choosing one! The one I have used since becoming a teacher is “free the breath to free the mind”. But I also remind myself and class to “just be, enjoy the moment, and to be here and now”.
I liked what you said earlier, about working with what we actually have, rather than what we wish we had. This I see as loving self acceptance and is key to my approach which incorporates the Paradoxical Theory of Change (see earlier blog). Gestalt Psychotherapy is the classic ‘Here and Now’ psychotherapy; by becoming aware of the present we are able to loosen habits and beliefs formed in the past, beliefs that constrain us. Through here and now awareness we learn to direct and choose our present and future. I find your approach compliments mine because when someone is locked in a negative cycle, their thoughts feed their bodily experience and their bodily experience feeds their thoughts. In therapy we encourage awareness of the mind and the body and support the client to bring more flexibility to the fixed cycle by allowing new experiences of thought or body. I like yoga because it works primarily with the body yet understands the mind body interplay, bringing us back to the here and now moment. Anxiety for example is never here and now, it always relates to the future (think about it … even if we are anxious because a ravenous lion has come upon us, it’s anticipation that forms our anxiety). We can approach healing through body work or mind work and it has been shown that working with both is more effective rather than one approach on its own.
I wish you a good day ahead and every success in your projects.
Thank you and you too. Maybe next time we talk I will be a fulltime yoga teacher with my own studio in a field, with meditation and therapy rooms, a vegetable garden for me to attend to, so I can cook delicious vegetarian food for everyone!
Oh yes, I’m sure you are meant to be a full time yoga teacher and I’d love a daytime class too! Especially in a studio in a field and I hope your visualisation has space for me in one of the therapy rooms!
If any of your readers want to come and give yoga a go, or learn a little more, join one of my retreats, they are more than welcome. I love sharing and to me this is what yoga is all about and I am more than happy to help wherever I can. My website Oakwood Yoga is normally up to date with everything. I am also on Facebook twice! As me and as Oakwood Yoga.
My yoga class schedule is:
Monday – 6pm to 7.30pm – Darley Abbey Village Hall, Derby DE22 1DS
Tuesday – Lower Hall at Little Eaton Village Hall, Vicarage Lane, Little Eaton DE21 5EA
5.45pm to 7.15pm – yoga for those living with cancer, ME, MS, fibromalagia, advanced arthritis etc
7.30pm to 9.00pm – Hatha yoga class
Wednesday – Eventide Community Hall, Hayeswood Road,Stanley Common DE7 6GE
6.00pm to 6.45pm – meditation group no previous experience required
7.00pm to 8.30pm – Hatha yoga class