Three years of teaching yoga in Henfield

I thought I’d write a little reflective piece on my experience of teaching yoga in Henfield.

I moved to the village in 2020, a few weeks before the time that Boris cancelled Christmas. I’d left a lovely group of people that I’d been teaching in Hertfordshire in the very capable hands of my friend and fellow yoga teacher Annette. With Covid I’d had months of online teaching before moving classes into my garden in all weathers.

Setting up in Henfield was far from straightforward. I had no local connections and the fear of Covid was ever present in 2021. For the two venues I ended up using, my classes were the first time the venues had been used for private groups in many months. Having experimented with different class timings (Saturdays were very much not popular) I settled into a pattern of Wednesday mornings and Thursday evenings. In time there was demand for an additional gentle class so we started a new class on a Monday evening initially exploring restorative yoga (with everyone bringing bolsters and blankets) but as time went on this has become a beginner level gentle class.

Mondays are now the busiest class of the week. People are often busy on other evenings and beginners are often a little hesitant to try the (very slightly) stronger Thursday classes.

When I look back to my first classes I am humbled by how comfortable people have become with yoga. Most students were totally new to the practice and I remember going home and thinking about how this was going to be very slow progress. But it was astonishing to watch how in time everyone, even the least bendy, grew in confidence. Yoga is a little like being thrown in the deep end of a swimming pool. Rather than panic, get out and never return, if you start to splash around, listen, watch and practice it’s incredible how quickly you can learn to swim. Whilst every class is a little different, the same postures come up regularly and we all end up having our favourites.

Personal highlights

It is my absolute joy as a yoga teacher to witness people getting increased mobility, strength, balance and flexibility thanks to a regular practice. We often find ourselves in a posture and someone will say “Wow – I couldn’t have done that six months ago”. And you know, it’s always totally fine if you can’t do something others can. We all have stuff going on with various bits of our bodies that make some postures easier than others whether genetics, injury, age or practice. There’s no judgement. I’ve never been a very bendy person and with back issues myself there are postures where I’m far from the most advanced person in the room.

I’ve also been so happy to see friendships made as a result of the classes. Not only has it meant that I have got to know masses of people in Henfield and beyond (making friends in the process) but the classes themselves have become friendly communities. There are no cliques. No one has claim on a particular mat space. Everyone is super supportive of each other whether in the class trying to manage a balance or dealing with a personal issue or tragedy outside of class. The Wednesday post class coffee meet-up is also a regular feature.

One thing that has been sad to see is a number of my regulars moving away from the area. But there is a constant flow of newbies coming into classes. And it’s so good to see people that started up with me back in 2021 still coming along each week.

Might you fit into this yoga community?

If you live near Henfield and are into your fitness it’s very likely that you’ll have considered Wickwoods (now part of David Lloyd Clubs) for classes. It means that there aren’t so many other local yoga classes around and also means that a lot of locals are already signed up to Wickwoods – I’ve been a member there myself in the past.

I think the presence of Wickwoods nearby has ended up meaning that my classes are a lot less intimidating to beginners than they would otherwise be. Lots of the local super keen yogis go to classes at Wickwoods leaving me the beginners and the less confident people. I’ve also ended up with a slightly older demographic. That’s fine – I’m 55 myself and I love teaching people of any age and ability.

I make a bit of a thing on my website about how yoga is for “every body”. I really mean that – we don’t do headstands or pretzel shapes. And we use props to help us get into postures comfortably. And I also emphasise how my classes don’t have a strong spiritual element to them. People have told me that they have been put off exploring yoga in the past due to fear of having to do things like chanting. I do use a little breathwork – and I know from feedback how popular this is. Breathwork will often simply be to draw awareness to the in and out breath or perhaps to count the breath in, hold for a few seconds before counting out. It’s great as a relaxation technique and goes hand in hand with the physical practice of yoga.

So if you fancy giving the classes a try, book in here. We’re all different ages, shapes and sizes. It’s mainly women but men are welcome too. You don’t need to commit to more than a single class at a time and you don’t need any special equipment.