We all like to know a little more about the teacher when we start a class, and with so many new teachers here at Liberty Wellbeing we decided to introduce ourselves a little more. Here’s the third in the series introducing Hannah Stewart.
Who are you and what do you do?
I’m Hannah and I teach yoga!
How did you get into yoga?
I began a yoga practice after the birth of my first child 12 years ago. She was born very poorly and I was looking for something that would help me relax and cope in quite a scary time in our lives, and was also in need of finding my core again! Yoga seemed a natural choice. Having never been a particularly physical person and very inflexible, I knew it would be a challenge…I had no idea how hard or enjoyable it would be!
Who and what inspires you in your work? Which yoga experts do you most admire?
I’m influenced by so many teachers.. obvious ones like Iyengar and Patthabi Jois. I always reference them if I’m questioning some aspect of yoga! I’ve been recently (slowly!) reading books by Richard Freeman and find his work mind blowing! Rodney Yee inspires my teaching, as does Annie Carpenter. My biggest inspiration will always be Stephen Buss who I did my teacher training with (sorry Stephen!)
When did you decide to become a teacher?
The decision to become a teacher happened 2 days before the training started! I hadn’t really thought about it! I had a conversation with Stephen and he encouraged me to do it. If he hadn’t I’m not sure I ever would have!
Even throughout the training, which was 2 years long the reality of teaching a class hadn’t really dawned on me. Stephen “handed down” one of his classes to me (at 34 weeks pregnant with my second child) and even though I felt sick with nerves and had such huge boots to fill, in hindsight it was the best thing he could have done…I may never have started otherwise!
Did you have a normal job before you started teaching for Liberty Wellbeing?
I had been teaching classes in and around Ashford for 6 years. I have also worked as a make up artist but have been fully self employed since December.
What 5 things would you say were essential to being a good teacher?
Respect! This works on so many levels. Respect your students limitations, abilities, beliefs, space…the list is endless. Respect the practice and traditions of yoga. Never assume anything about anyone of your students… you don’t know their story or why they are in the room at that class.
Patience. Everyone grows at their own pace. Nothing can be rushed. a patient teacher will understand your fears and limitations…but push you (safely!) anyway! Sometimes they know more about what you are capable of than you do!
Teaching from their own experience. The most inspiring teachers I admire teach from their hearts and you know their lessons come from years of trying and learning, rather than regurgitated information that is just copied from the internet! Real insight comes from a depth of understanding that is gained from intense hard work and experience. I’m not saying a yoga teacher should be able to perform every asana, but you should trust their practice has come from a place of integrity, persistence, blood sweat and tears! A teacher that wants to continue to grow projects that onto their students.
Ability to say they are wrong. Good teachers should question everything. A lot of modern yoga teaching is an opinion. A lot of books have different approaches and opinions. There is more than one way to approach asana’s, a good teacher should make the asana work safely for a students individual body. Except chaturanga dandasana. If you do it badly its wrong. Sorry.
The ability to adapt a class or lesson plan. It’s been many years since I’ve written a lesson plan. I’ve been to classes in the past with a wrist injury turned up and the theme has been handstands… Something like this happens on a weekly basis and if a teacher that can adapt a class and make it work for everyone I think that is vital. Yoga should be for everyone and i’ve witnessed teachers asking people to leave as the class isn’t suitable for their injury etc. For a lot people the journey of yoga is moving from one injury to the next, until they start to understand their limits!
What is the most popular aspect of your teaching role?
The most obvious would be shavasana! That’s true for any practice! I think generally, particularly with the intermediates class, students know I tend to teach a slightly more challenging level of class. For many this is what keeps them away!! But those who know what they are in for seem to enjoy the challenge!
What aspects of your job do you enjoy the most and which do you find challenging?
I enjoy all aspects of teaching. From planning (yes I do plan…I just don’t write it down!) to end of class. I love planning workshops and more recently retreats. The most enjoyable part of teaching is seeing students progress, and how encouraging they are as a group to each other. They amaze me every week.
The hardest past has always been finishing on time!
If you weren’t teaching for Liberty Wellbeing what would you be doing with your time?
I’d like to think I would always be teaching yoga! I’m keen to continue my understanding and practice of reiki, and would like to start learning Thai massage.
Do you take part in any groups that aren’t Liberty Wellbeing?
I teach all over Ashford, for both myself and various other locations. I work closely with Ohm Angel Wellbeing and we do regular Reiki Yoga workshops and ran our first retreat this year.
Yoga is such a wonderful community locally its a pleasure to be involved.
What’s new with your yoga practice at the moment?
I’d like to think my practice is always evolving, if not necessarily improving! I have recently committed to a daily meditation practice, and all the years of asana practice is all finally making sense as I can now sit with ease. Meditation is something I always struggled with, but I’m now starting to favour this practice as much as asana!