50 Years 50 Voices "I was literally on my knees and turned to yoga to alleviate the stress and anxiety." Lisa's* Story I’ve always been interested in yoga, ever since I was a kid. Especially the philosophy behind it. To be honest, it has been my foundation in life. Having twins at very early age was a massive life-changing experience, and I turned to the yoga sutras as a philosophical belief system. It gave me the strength to keep my head above water and embrace the many twists and turns along the way. My journey into becoming a yoga teacher has been a long one, having worked for the public sector for nearly a decade. I experienced a work place bullying situation for over two years. It was extremely intense and resulted in a grievance procedure. As a result, I was signed off work for nearly a year and on the verge of a nervous breakdown. I was literally on my knees and turned to yoga to alleviate the stress and anxiety. Meditation, conscious breathing & postures offer the opportunity to reconnect with the present moment, reducing the chatter of the mind, triggering the body’s natural relaxation response. I eventually left my place of employment and went on holiday with some friends. On the return flight, I remember saying to myself: “I’m going to do this, I’m going to become a yoga teacher.” As soon as I arrived back in the UK, I applied for a yoga course. I started working with Hestia about three years ago now, hosting chair yoga classes for mature movers at the Age Activity Centre (AAC) in Wandsworth. It made me realise, as a yoga instructor I want to make it accessible to everyone. There are a lot of people within the community on low incomes that would truly benefit from yoga. I initially worked on a voluntary basis, but was offered a paid freelance position. The members loved the classes but due to the pandemic, this has sadly been postponed. After a year at the AAC, I was approached by one of Hestia’s domestic abuse refuges to start providing yoga classes for families. I set out to do a children’s yoga course, and once qualified, I worked on a voluntary & freelancer status for the Family Fitness Project, providing yoga sessions for families in refuges. This has continued throughout the lockdowns being delivered via teams. The families really enjoy the sessions. The women are so awe-inspiring. When you have experienced domestic abuse, your personality & confidence are ripped to shreds. You need space and time to rebuild those layers. Yoga offers coping mechanisms that encourage reconnection with who you are, especially when you have become lost in the turmoil. To see people enjoying the yoga, leaving the session relaxed and with a smile, that’s what it is all about. The members at the AAC really give it their all – a couple of members couldn’t even lift their legs up when we first started, and now they can. You get to see the yoga in action. It’s a shame that, because of COVID, everything is on hold. I know that as soon as we can, we will pick it up again, and I hope to expand my sessions across the London boroughs. I’m really looking forward to that. I’m excited for normality. For now, I’m just trying to get through lockdown. It’s a bit of a shock with all this time on my hands now. I even made a pair of curtains! Which song has impacted me the most? Frankie Knuckles, Your Love, because it reminds me of being 18. I absolutely love that record and it’s just stuck with me. I’m really annoyed that they’ve done about 1500 remixes of it! Which film has impacted me the most? Man on Fire, Denzel Washington. The Four Horseman - Sept 2013. I do enjoy a documentary. Which book has impacted me the most? A Road Less Travelled by Scott Pecks. I read it when I was 18. He’s a psychologist. It talks about the dark night of the soul, the awakening. Very deep but a good book, nonetheless.