What teaching Yoga in Corsica has taught me…

What teaching Yoga in Corsica has taught me about both my teaching style and my self practice.

Having only been back home a week, it still feels surreal to think that Lara and I followed through with our epic adventure. A conversation on a beach in Nice and little over a year later we can’t quite believe we did it!

After endless time spent co creating, marketing, researching, positioning and strategising our Corsican adventure, I can now sit back, take a deep breath and allow some room to reflect on my self learning.

Lara and I both agree that anything really is possible, its all about the hard work, commitment, team effort and back bone that is required to make things happen. Fortunately for me, I could not have asked for a better co pilot in this whole procedure.

My husband often laughs at me, saying he has never met anyone who jumps into projects or goals quite like his wife! Not too mention the fact that the nervous energy and stress hits me like a ton of bricks about a month before things become real!

Teaching my first yoga class in Porto Vecchio I was so nervous. It was a freezing cold evening, windy and icy to the bone. I kept thinking to myself, how am I going to teach barefoot! My little toes are going to freeze! Unlike South Africans who have the luxury of good weather, Europeans are much more resilient when it comes to braving the natural elements! I fumbled through the first class, my voice felt small and surrounded by such incredible scenery I felt somewhat insignificant.

First evening class in Porto Vecchio

From there onwards, each class became a little bit easier. My voice settled, I returned to my regular breathing and I slowed the practice down. This was always part of my feedback during my teacher trainers course with YogaLondon. Slow down, stay in the asana, don’t rush. 

Teaching in a beautiful home just outside Porto Vecchio

Teaching in a beautiful home just outside Porto Vecchio

Another reoccurring obstacle was language. I am embarrassed to admit that I speak no French, my name doesn’t even sound the same when French people say it! So how to teach with very little dialogue? What are the most important things to highlight at the beginning of a class? What postures should I avoid?

I would introduce myself with Lara as my translator, asking if anyone had any injuries, high blood pressure, pregnancy, the usual (I know! Totally spoilt right!). I then decided that Ujjayi breath was essential to introduce, I showed them Balasana (child’s pose) in case they were tired during the class, and then gave a quick demo of what Savasana (corpse pose) looked like at the end of the class. If by some miracle a few people spoke a bit of English or had done Yoga before I asked them to stand in the front or at a place where it would be easy for others to see them.

The language barrier meant that I did avoid more technical postures but somehow this gave precedent to perfecting foundation postures and taking the time to find yourself in that very moment. Teaching balancing sequences and arm balances on the beach sand was an extra challenge for all of us! Luckily laughter goes a long way and is a language unto itself!

Thank you to YogaLondon for teaching me how to say and do things at the same time. A unique kind of fitness that I think is built up only on a 200hr intensive program.

Imminent rain clouds

Imminent rain clouds couldn’t ruin this magnificent setting

Whether I taught on the beach, at the villa by the poolside or on the terrace, in someones home, on a windy day, in a light drizzle or in the full sun, I always came back to my breath. I soon realised that if I reacted to being irritated by the wind, if I was anxious about whether or not the rain was going to come down, it was going to transfer to my students. If I became frustrated by not being able to use dialogue or verbal language, I would steal from their practice and experience. The more relaxed I was, the more I became mindful of how lucky we all were to have a daily yoga practice in such a truly spectacular place, the more insignificant all those other ‘barriers’ became.

One morning beach class was particularly windy and as it came time for Savasana, I thought to myself, what now! In that split second I thought why not do Savasana lying on your stomach, sheltered from the sand blowing over your face. Adaptability, playfulness and creativity saved the day every time!

Perhaps it was hearing so much French, the fresh air and tranquil oceans, I feel I have come home with a different tone of my ‘teachers voice’. Softer, gentler and what used to feel like awkward silences when I first started teaching, now feel like moments my students are entitled to. They are in their regular practice to connect with themselves, for me to act as a guide and facilitator.

Such a terrific group of girls

Such a terrific group of girls to teach

It didn’t matter if I was teaching a Pilates instructor, fitness or food blogger, other fitness trainers, I was always welcomed with such kindness and warmth. Most of the people who did speak English that I had the opportunity to teach had attended Yoga classes in Switzerland, Japan, Los Angeles and Paris. It was so encouraging and humbling to hear their positive feedback after each class.

Another beautiful beach class

Yet a another beautiful beach class

As for my own practice I am constantly reminded to enjoy the journey. It really is going to be a long one! We all have our strengths and weaknesses, areas of comfort and familiarity. What matters is how we self manage during phases of change, Yoga will continue to be a place where I can find balance, calm and inner gratitude.