An interview with Annie and her journey into yoga
Tell us how and when you started practicing yoga?
I first stepped on a yoga mat in 1996 and it took quite a few years before I had a regular practice. I started to practice it at first just to keep in shape, I wasn’t interested in anything spiritual at all back then! I really enjoyed the shapes of the postures and how it made me feel afterwards. I used to practice at home to a Barbara Curry VHS in my lounge. I then went to my first yoga class which was awful! The teacher was so bendy and didn’t give any options for my inflexible body, I left the class feeling worse than when I walked in so I didn’t do it for some years after until I started to do Katy Appleton’s DVDs at home and got back into it. I then went and did my teacher training with Katy about 7 years ago. She is great and really helped me fall in love with yoga again. I have been fortunate to study with many amazing teachers since then.
Why is yoga an important part of your life?
Because I think I’m probably a bit crazy without it! I was quite a party girl for many years and used to drink a lot. Yoga keeps me grounded and stops me falling into unhealthy habits.
About 12 years ago I lost someone very close to me and doing a daily practice really helped me to make sense of it all and got me through some quite dark times. Yoga teaches acceptance so it really helped me out a lot back then. I’m a lot happier when I practice and it has definitely helped to chill me out and to cope with life’s ups and downs in a more balanced way. I also do it for a spiritual connection.
What are the benefits of yoga?
Phew! Where do I start! There are so many health benefits- decreases stress, relieves anxiety, improves heart health, better sleep, increased energy, increases lung capacity, good for the bones, increased flexibility. As I get older I realise the importance of moving the joints so the energy can flow more freely which helps keep us supple so we don’t get stiff. When the prana (life force) gets stuck we can get aches and pains in the body so I teach joint flows quite a lot now.
What type of yoga do you teach? What other style are there and how do they differ?
Vinyasa yoga is my first love and what I teach mainly. The postures are put together in a flow with modifications offered, it is one of the most popular styles of yoga around at the moment and there is no guru attached, Vinyasa means ” to place in a special way” and you connect the movements with the breath.
I also teach yin yoga which is a more meditative and reflective practice. The emphasis is on long held passive stretches of the deeper connective tissue whilst also focusing on the breath. Vinyasa is a more ‘yang’ practice so more heat building and yin is cooling and it is very beneficial to have a balance of the two, yin and yang. I also teach Restorative yoga where there is no stretching involved, you just get really comfy using lots of props and stay with your breath. Poses may be held for up to 20 minutes, I also enjoy this in my practice and used to run monthly restorative workshops which were really popular.
There are so many styles now, too many to mention but the above are probably the main ones. Ashtanga yoga has a big following as does BKS Iyengar who was instrumental in bringing yoga to the West, also Sivananda is a nice school. Kundalini yoga is interesting too, working a lot with energy. Anusara yoga is very heart based focusing on tantric philosophy. I recently did a training in this and it has a lot to offer. I am not a fan of hot yoga but a lot of people love it and it has become very popular. I also did some laughing yoga in India which was awesome where you all stand around and laugh. Our instructor was in his 80s and offered it every morning in a park in Mumbai, and he gives you different types of laughs to join in. It seemed very odd but by the end we were all crying with laughter and felt amazing after!
In the west we put a lot of emphasis on asana (poses) but what we really want to achieve in a practice is a connection to the breath. To connect body, mind, breath and spirit- this is a well rounded practice.
Where do you normally teach and how long do the sessions last?
Pre lockdown I would usually teach a weekly morning class here at Boconnoc and teach around the Newquay area and in Summercourt. Most classes are 60 minutes and I also do one 90 minute class each week. I teach Yin and Restorative workshops monthly too.
How many times a week should you practice yoga?
I try and practice all the time! So if I am driving and someone cuts in front rather than getting annoyed I connect to my breath – this is yoga! But a good Asana practice I would say 3-4 times a week, this will help to increase flexibility.
I practice asana six days a week and like to have a rest day usually on a Sunday where I may just do a meditation practice. I try to stay mindful so even if I go for a walk on the beach I keep reminding myself to stay present to the moment- this can be my yoga practice .
What type of equipment will I need?
You will need a yoga mat, two yoga bricks, a yoga belt, and a blanket. I am a big advocate of props, they are so handy as they can help to ease the body into poses that may feel unachievable without.
How is yoga different from other types of fitness?
Well I don’t really see it as just fitness (although I know that’s why I got interested in it!) It is more than fitness, it is a practice that connects you to something bigger than yourself. When you start to practice you don’t even realise it’s happening at first, but it starts to change you. You suddenly realise you are a lot nicer to yourself and others. It helps us to accept things as they really are and when we can do this we let go of craving, wishing things were different often gets us nowhere.
Can I practice yoga even though I am not very flexible?
Absolutely! I have taught all sorts of people; you don’t need to be flexible! The more you practice, the more flexible you will become for sure, but the important thing when you practice yoga is that you listen to the body and accept its limitations with kindness to yourself. Sometimes because of our skeleton there are poses that the body simply can’t do eg. I will NEVER be able to do box splits because of where my femur bone is in my socket and I have learnt to be perfectly okay with this.
Are you offering any online sessions during lockdown?
Yes I am doing a free Facebook class every Monday morning 9-9.30 and also have a 5 day timetable which you can find on facebook Annie Kelly Yoga & Thai Massage or on my website Annie Kelly Yoga Newquay – Yoga Newquay | Online Yoga Classes Streamed Live.
Annie is also offering free yoga sessions to NHS and health care workers on Zoom, and will also be returning to offer outdoor sessions at Boconnoc soon.