"The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away" - Pablo Picasso
At the age of 14 I picked up my first SLR film camera and was instantly mesmerised by how life looked through the lens and equally passionate about black and white printing. I went on to study photography at Wimbledon School of Art and then Falmouth School of Art where I specialised in Black and white Portraiture.
For me, picking up a camera is like sitting down to meditate in many ways. When I take photographs, I become totally connected with the present moment, thoughts about the past or future subside, and I instantly feel calmer. I have a chance to look at life in a way that I often forget to during my normal day to day life- I notice subtleties in light, the expressions on peoples faces, the colours in nature. I feel more alive and connected to the world I live in.
Whilst I also love taking photographs of nature, I am drawn time and time again to work with people. Capturing smiles, sharing stories or recording special moments in time; I love to connect one on one with people and use my camera to capture the parts of us that make us unique and special, whilst at the same time celebrating the fact that as human beings, we are all so similar.
Yoga for me, is a practice that is as much about what happens off the mat as what happens on it. My practice has taught me the importance of being more connected to the present moment. As someone that has suffered from anxiety and depression at various points throughout my life- this has become a key part of how I manage my mental wellbeing.
I have learnt that if I want to make changes in my life I have to first understand myself better and accept the reality of who I am..the wonderful parts and the more wonky parts that I want to change. Yoga offers me with many tools to do this and to live a more balanced and happy life.
When I started practicing yoga, like many people I felt like I didn’t really know what I was doing and found I was trying to force myself into poses- may of which felt really awkward to me. I felt frustrated that I couldn’t keep up with the class and to co-ordinate my breath with the movement. There were many poses that felt really awkward for me and I often experienced pain in my lower back after a class. Six months later I found myself with a very painful hamstring injury and decided to seek advice from a physio. Whilst there she also informed me that I had mild scoliosis- a curve in my spine that had developed over time due to poor posture, restrictive footwear and unhelpful movement patterns.
I was worried that yoga might be making matters worse and I was scared of injuring myself again. However, I felt so drawn to yoga and I didn’t want to give up- something inside of me was telling me to persevere- this was such an ancient practice…there had to be something in it right?!
4 weeks later I started practicing again. However, this time I decided to stick to classes that were slower and aimed at complete beginners. I started to learn to listen to my body more and how to connect with my breath and use it as a tool during my practice. When I was struggling to breath smoothly I knew to back off. When I could breath with ease I found I could often find a bit more space to move more deeply into the pose. I developed more awareness about the intention behind each pose and as a result stopped pushing myself and worrying about how I looked, and focused more on how I felt.
Something really shifted in me. My yoga practice stopped feeling like an exercise class, and more like a moving meditation . Of course I was gaining physical strength and flexibility too- it seemed that the more I connected with my breath and the less I pushed myself the more I felt the benefits in my body. I no longer felt any pain after my practice.
Over the next year, I became more curious about Yoga and enrolled in a British Wheel of Yoga teacher training course. It was never my intention to actually teach at that point – simply enhance my own practice.
Now I am out in the world teaching and loving it. I love sharing my experience of yoga with others and using my knowledge and training to help them find a way safe and fun way of practicing yoga that works for their unique body and mind. In a world where more and more people are struggling with mental health issues I hope that like me, yoga can reach and benefit as many people as possible.
Of course, I still have the odd wobble, but Yoga provides me with a vast set of tools with which to deal with these and I feel well equipped to go out in the world and Thrive….as a yoga student, yoga teacher, photographer and slightly wonky but pretty awesome human being.
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