I grew up just outside of London, England, and initially began practicing Hatha Yoga around the age of 6. I was a student of dance and I enjoyed the flexibility a mat practice brought with it. It took me several years to fully be able to understand the real purpose of physical yoga practice and to absorb the other benefits I received from yoga.
Growing up I would find myself really getting into yoga for months at a time but then I was distracted by other things in life as many young people are. There weren’t many yoga classes for kids when I was growing up in the UK so I practiced alone at home a lot, watching videos or learning from books. As a teenager, I just did not have the discipline it took to continue with regular practice and at that time I was yet to find my guru.
But I was deeply connected to the art of dance and the more I began to explore movement, the more I became enthralled by the union of nature and spirit we find through dance and other creative forms of expression, especially those rooted in movement. Awareness and exploration of these disciplines can transform lives.
In search of myself
In my 20’s I moved to the mountains of Andalucia (Spain) with my young family in search of myself (you might say), and it is there, on a dusty bookshelf in the attic of my cortijo I found a book called the Tutankhamen Prophecies by Maurice Cotterell. The book explored the comparisons in numerology and other esoteric aspects between religions. This text awakened something in me.
I had always been fascinated by religions but never found one that I could totally believe in yet I knew intrinsically that there was something more to this life. I voraciously began to study ancient civilizations and their beliefs. Yoga and yogic philosophy came up again and again and the more I would read about Yoga the more interested I became in exploring the knowledge the great yogis of ancient times possessed. It seemed they managed to not only balance an understanding of the spiritual but also a practical system of acknowledging the physical body as the very temple of the soul.
“Put your heart, mind, and soul into even your smallest acts. This is the secret of success.”
I became familiar with their world, their ability to heal and control their physical bodies, the science behind yoga and how yoga helps balance the endocrine and nervous system. I spent time with other yogis and swamis who had lived for many years in ashrams. They taught me more about Ayurveda and different breathing and cleansing actions undertaken by yogis in ancient India.
I sought out teachers who had a deeper understanding of yoga than those you might find in the average gym yoga class (not that there aren’t some great ones). I continued to develop my personal yoga practice for several years while studying Yogic philosophy and the system of Ayurveda.
Certifications and all
After a whole lot of self-exploration and practice and finally a certification course, I graduated as a Hatha Yoga Teacher in the Sivananda lineage in early 2012. While having my base mainly between Spain and Thailand, I have since gone on to teach all over the world and I am proud and humbled to be recognized for my patient and passionate teaching style and for the opportunities I have been given as a teacher to help so many people benefit from the art of yoga.
When teaching, my greatest pleasure is helping others achieve improved health and peace of mind. It helps to possess an understanding of Yoga as a science, which I continue to develop towards both the physical and philosophical aspects of the mind, body and breath connection. Through my classes, I help my students better understand this connection.
Showing them how a correct diet and a regular yoga practice can truly transform their lives is one aspect. It may sound corny but that makes it nonetheless true. Sometimes we all need to be reminded to shift our focus from just yoga ‘on the mat’ to yoga in the world. Yoga is not limited to physical asana practice and as a teacher, I believe it my responsibility to help my students experience yoga in its true essence.
As much as I am a yogini I am also a dancer. I have practiced yoga and dance for as long as I can remember and though I may be a teacher I always try to remain a student. Through many years of research, I have found that just as dance was an integral part of the culture the world over, recognized as a form of prayer and devotion, there is evidence of yoga being practiced all over the world in ancient societies from India to Egypt and perhaps as researcher Graham Hancock has recently discovered, it is even a knowledge possessed by the Olmec people of Mesoamerica.
I believe that yoga and dance were and still are practiced today with the same purpose and that purpose being a path to spirit.
To explore and commit as a teacher
On my path as a yoga teacher, I have worked with people from all walks of life, people with all different kinds of physical abilities and requirements including many professional athletes, people recovering from drug and alcohol addiction and also people with special needs.
I have taught at centers that specialize in weight loss and shared a practice with many blessed, pregnant students during my time with the Bangkok hospital in Phuket. During the past 6-7 years, I have worked with many women’s circles and ladies only groups. These experiences have led to so many profound moments.
“In all darkness, there is a light and in all light, there is a darkness.”
I have seen and experienced how a conscious practice if undertaken with an open heart and mind can truly affect the female body and their connection with the divine feminine at an almost rapid level. Through practicing the ancient system of chakra Yoga we are able to tap into the collective female energy body and harness the energy of the goddess within.
At every stage in a woman’s life, Yoga can become a vehicle for lifting their vibrations and realizing their true power. By collectively approaching and practicing this wisdom and harnessing the energy of the sacred feminine we can become catalysts for the change that this planet needs now to restore balance within our collective female body and on earth.
That being said I often work with male-only groups in Thailand as well and love creating practices that benefit them at all levels, physical as well as mental and emotional. Most of the men I work with are fighters or professional athletes and a lot of what they do is yang in nature. They are pushing themselves to the absolute limit and so I find that they really enjoy gentle yin sessions… working with deep restorative poses and relaxation techniques. I also combine pranayama exercises to improve their overall stamina and performance as athletes.
As a Yoga teacher, I have been blessed to have the opportunity to travel the world with my husband and two children David and Skye while working with some amazing retreats in both Europe and Asia, in particular on the island of Phuket, Thailand, which has been our home for most of the past six years.
I consider dance as a form of devotional or Bhakti Yoga. I am a performer and student in the art of Persian, mystical and sacred dances and continue to study global folkloric dance and the art and the importance of storytelling through such movement performance. Today, I am best known as a global yoga and dance instructor and performer. Apart from Yoga and dance, I am also a certified practitioner in holistic medicine and crystal healing.
Tips on daily routine
- Even if you only have 15 minutes to spare you can squeeze in a little mat practice and focus on three or four positions rather than trying to do a lot.
- Practice waking up early and prepare for the day ahead using sun salutations but try to work with the moon salutations or a gentle restorative position before bedtime to ensure a good night’s sleep.
- Drink water!
- Be kind to others. Yoga means union, we are one. Take your practice off the mat and extend it into the world.
- Whenever you are feeling stressed, practice your ocean breath and feel yourself becoming calmer.
- It is better to do 30 minutes on the mat 3 times a week than 1 hour once a week.
- Be patient with yourself, listen to your body and learn how to let go. It is amazing how much more we can do when we are not trying too hard.
Advice for those who wish to become Yoga teachers
If you plan to enroll in a YTTC, my suggestion is that you should take your time and explore your own practice first. Try different teachers until you find your guru and be sure that you have learned as much as you can as a student first.
When you are ready, find the right course and not just the one in the nicest location 🙂 YTT courses can also be beneficial for practitioners who do not want to teach right away but rather want to deepen their understanding of yoga. The right course at the right time is life-changing, enjoy every minute of the journey.
Various approaches to Yoga
Firstly let me say that I believe there is only one Yoga, though there may be many styles and approaches. As I work with such diverse groups of people from all over the world with all different requirements and abilities, the mat practices that I share must also be diverse. The style of yoga I trained in and usually teach is what would be considered as traditional Hatha.
Yet I also enjoy sharing Yin, Yoga Therapy and Restorative Yoga. When I am working with dancers, surfers, athletes and those seeking a more dynamic practice, I revel in working with challenging sequences that bring greater balance, build strength and increased flexibility using the breath to ease the transition from one asana to the next. Pranayama [breath awareness] is always a point of focus in my teaching.
My plans for 2020 involve finding a location in Europe to open a small retreat with a yoga studio and a cafe that we can open to the general public. A place people can come to explore yoga in nature and learn how to eat/live well while exploring other forms of movement meditation, dance, and music [my other love]. I am currently checking out locations in central Portugal, a place I have spent a lot of time over the past couple of years and really fallen in love with.
I also wish to finally get my online yoga and dance series out there for my students who come to see me on retreat but can’t always be present or attend my classes for various reasons. Of course, these videos will also be a tool for me to reach out to a wider audience and also help those who plan to attend my classes and retreats, and familiarize themselves with theories and style.
A conduit of the sacred feminine, mother, world explorer, holistic healer, environmental and animal rights activist, writer, philosopher, and artist.
Creator of the LetsDance© program. A dance fitness experience.
Priestess and guide for the Wild Woman RISE© retreats and movement.
Facebook: @TheYogaDancerWebsite: www.rachel-m.com