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 first in the series introducing Sam Stone.
Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Samantha Stone and I’m a yoga teacher.
How did you get into yoga?
My first experience of yoga was in my early twenties when I lived in Melbourne, Australia. I attended a class and I didn’t like it at all at first! I remember performing vrksasana (tree pose), everyone else seemed to float into it in a ‘zen-like’ state whilst I wobbled, cursed and turned increasingly red. I walked out feeling very inadequate and didn’t return to another class until I moved back to Ashford a year later. I found a lovely, friendly class with a teacher called Jacqui Xavier-Rhoades, held at Godinton House. She made me feel so welcome, the class was small and laid back and this time I found my feet in the yoga world.
Who and what inspires you in your work?
Crumbs, this is going to sound cheesy but my students do. I’m lucky to have a number of students that have been with me since the very start of my teaching journey. They create a wonderful atmosphere in class, are welcoming and encouraging when new people arrive and amazingly supportive of each other. This is one of the things I love about yoga, that sense of community from being with other people that I think you just can’t get on Facebook!
Which fellow yoga experts do you most admire?
A couple of years ago I was lucky to meet the wonderful Rachel Brathen (aka Instagram’s Yoga Girl) at a book signing in Brighton. She just radiated love and positivity, gave us all hugs and spent time chatting to each of us in turn.
When did you decide to become a yoga teacher?
Now you’re testing my memory! It must have been nearly ten years ago when I was attending Jacqui’s classes. After studying media, film and drama at University I had originally planned on going into acting or the film industry but I didn’t like the unstable, competitive nature of the work and ended up working in the media industry in administrative jobs. However, I didn’t wanted to spend my life in a 9 to 5 role in front of a computer so was at a bit of a cross roads when I found yoga. In 2010 I did a foundation course with the British Wheel of Yoga to explore the subject more deeply. From there, it inspired me to teach so I signed up to their diploma course.
Did you have a “normal” job before you started teaching for Liberty Wellbeing?
I still do as I currently work as a communications officer for local government. However, I’ve had a wide range of ‘normal’ jobs in the past, from retail (including the Body Shop and M&S), reception at a laser hair removal clinic in Australia to working at TV companies, a design agency and an operatic entertainment company!
What five things would you say were essential to being a good teacher?
Knowledge. Not just yoga poses, practices and philosophy but a knowledge of anatomy and physiology and common health conditions to understand students’ individual needs. It also means that the teacher can cater to all levels in a class so everyone feels included and able to take part.
Willingness to learn. In order to keep classes fresh and interesting, as a teacher we must continue to learn and be inspired by other tutors. I regularly take further training, attend classes and workshops and do a lot of reading and research to develop my own
practice to enrich the classes I teach.
Attentiveness. A teacher should always check in with students at the start of class so that they can adapt the session according to how people are feeling or any injuries or health concerns. Throughout the class the tutor should check in on students, in order to
give adjustments and encouragement.
Being present, not perfect. I think it’s important for every yogi to let go of this idea of attaining perfection. We’re bombarded with images on Instagram of advanced poses in stunning locations that can make us feel inadequate (yes, even us teachers!). There are some poses I may never achieve, because my body just isn’t built that way and I want my students to realise that yoga is a practice of connecting mind and body and not a competition to be a human pretzel! I also want them to build the confidence to know how to adapt their own practice to their own body and needs at that time. The mark of an accomplished student isn’t ticking off that advanced pose without much thought but one that can internalise their practice. By understanding how to adjust their body in a way that feels right for them shows they’re truly tuning in. As an aside to this, I’ve attended classes where the tutor has pushed and pulled me into poses to achieve rigid ideals of alignment that have actually felt painful. Please, don’t ever let a tutor do that! If you feel pain in a pose it’s a sign to back off and no one should ever force you into anything that doesn’t feel good.
Being true to their own style. Every yoga tutor is different which is why I advise prospective students to try a number of different teachers to see who they connect with best. Don’t give up on yoga if you attend one class and hate it, you may find that particular style or tutor just isn’t for you but there are so many more out there. Some classes are quiet and meditative, encouraging a silent practice, others are a littler ‘noisier’ with upbeat music and more dance-like sequences. I like to teach a relaxed class where we’re not afraid to laugh and find the fun side of our practice.
What is the most popular aspect of your teaching role?
My students usually start coming to yoga because they want to improve their flexibility but soon discover that yoga helps them to manage stress as it allows them dedicated time and permission to relax. As such they all seem to love the relaxation at the end of class!
Which aspects of your job do you enjoy the most, and which do you find the most challenging?
I love seeing the change in students from when they walk into class and when they leave, they all look taller and lighter! (When one student commented upon this, just for fun, we measured her before and after the session and found she’d ‘grown’ over a centimetre!) In terms of what’s challenging, this year has been particularly hard work as I have been working full time as well as growing my teaching business and increasing the number of classes taught. Trying to juggle all the preparation, marketing, paperwork and actual teaching on top of the day job meant I was frequently exhausted and frazzled. Thankfully my other half is a patient and supportive man! On the plus side, it has meant that I’m able to transition into working part time in my day job in order to create a schedule that really suits me. I’m very grateful to Jennie at Liberty for waiting so patiently for me to become free to teach classes and I’m excited to be holding my first workshops and courses with them this year as well as seeing the Liberty business grow.
If you weren’t teaching for Liberty Wellbeing, what would you be doing with your time?
I think I’d still be frustratedly wondering how I could live the dream!
Do you take part in any groups that aren’t part of Liberty Wellbeing?
I’ve taught classes for Kent Adult Education for more than 5 years now and also have a couple of private classes that have been going for over a year. When it comes to attending any groups, alas not as any ‘free time’ has been pretty much non-existent! I love films though so do try to get to the cinema to catch up on the latest releases and make sure I get a regular massage for some much needed ‘me time’.
What’s new with your yoga/mindfulness practice at the moment? Do you have any new and exciting developments underway?
This year sees the arrival of my first workshops. I’m in the middle of planning my Ayurveda classes, developing my knowledge of this amazing system of healing and wellbeing and I’m really looking forward to the sessions in June and October. I’ll also be running Candlelit Yoga in November which will be very much inspired by restorative yin yoga, elements of my Scandinavian ancestry with some hygge and possibly even a little chocolate! I also spent a brilliant evening with Jennie and Hannah coming up with some wonderful ideas for our Elemental Magic day retreat in November. It’s going to be utterly blissful and I’m so excited to be involved, if you’re coming along you’re truly in for a treat!